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The Wheels of the Bike Go 'Round and 'Round


One Saturday last July, the parking lot of the 320 Market and Café on South Chester Road was full—not with cars, though. People from the Swarthmore borough and surrounding area flocked to the lot to deposit bicycles they no longer needed, many of which had seen better days—some even missing parts. The bikes were donations to Chester Neighborhood Bike Works (CNBW), an organization founded and directed by Anna Baeth ’09 and supported by a Swarthmore Foundation grant from the Lang Center of Civic and Social Responsibility. Using the bikes as incentives, Baeth aims to foster enthusiasm for healthy recreation among the young people of Chester by teaching CNBW participants how to rebuild, repair, and maintain the bikes that they are then allowed to keep. She decided to start CNBW after interning last summer with Neighborhood Bike Works in Philadelphia, whose goal is to encourage cycling as a means to conserve energy as well as offering instruction in cycling safety and repair.

According to an article by John A. Wright in the Chester Spirit weekly newspaper, in all, 120 bikes and cash donations totaling $1,000 were collected. Once catalogued according to type, wheel size, make, model, and serial number, the bikes were transported to the Chester YWCA, the headquarters of CNBW.

Among the volunteers helping Baeth were her parents and sister from Maryland; Assistant Director of Student Life and former Head Women’s Field-hockey Coach Kelly Wilcox ’97, who coached Baeth; Professor of English Literature and cycling enthusiast Peter Schmidt; and several fellow students.

An Earn-a-Bike program for 10- to 17-year-olds, running twice a week for six weeks, trains groups of six students at a time in the benefits of exercise, a healthy diet, and bike safety and maintenance. Students receive a donated bike each, on which, guided by instructors, they learn and practice repair, reconstruction, and maintenance. Upon completion of 20 hours of classroom and cycling time, they are allowed to keep the bikes along with a bike lock, a helmet, and a water bottle.

“The nice part about this project,” Baeth says, “is that it has many rewards for both volunteers and members of the Chester community. A few of my biggest hopes are that it first empowers students by giving them the useful skill of bike repair as well as a safe—not to mention fun—physical activity. I also hope that it brings people from the different communities—Chester, Swarthmore, cyclists, activists, and so on—together.”

—Carol Brévart-Demm
Based on John A. Wright’s “Conservation and
Safety Promoted by New Bike Program"
Chester Spirit, 7/30/2008–8/5/2008

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