The front page of the Niagara Anglican (June 2015) showed a picture of a rainbow surrounding bike mechanic Dave Coles with a bicycle. The caption read, “Providing Farm Workers With Wheels,” and the article was about St. Alban’s Beamsville launching its Bikes for Farmworkers program.
Here is an update.
People at St. Alban’s learned there were about 4,000 farmworkers throughout Niagara. Most were isolated, living on rural farms and working 10–12 hour days. They needed bicycles for transportation. Of those who had bikes, many had no brakes and were unsafe.
Volunteers set up a bike shop in the church basement, put up 70 or 80 posters in area businesses, collected donated bicycles, refurbished them and provided them to farmworkers.
Since the start of the program, 341 bikes have been collected and fully refurbished. Almost all went to farmworkers. Each bike passes a 45 point inspection prior to release, has a bell and all the required reflectors. When the 2016 riding season wound down, only 11 bikes remained in the usual pool of 15–20 ready for distribution.
This past year, 1,500 LED bike lights were also imported from China and distributed free of charge. Only about 300 remain. Many farmworkers work all day and their only off time is at night. Some are dark skinned, have dark clothing and are riding on dark unlit roads.
They need bike lights which they get from St. Alban’s.
The basement, once filled with donated bicycles, is now half empty, but bikes keep showing up at the front and back doors. Calls continue to come in from people offering to donate a bike or two and requesting pick up. Bike pickups can be arranged from Hamilton to Niagara Falls.
The repair work continues throughout the winter, albeit at a slower pace.
In 2015, St. Alban’s distributed about 80 bikes, last year it was over 250—who knows what 2017 will bring.