June 14th, 2015 was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and the wheels were turning at the Josephine A. Fiorentino Community Center at Charlesview. Close to 50 folks, most aged ten and younger, came out for CommonWheels’ first “Family Bikes Fiesta” of the season.
In addition to the crowd-favorite piñata, we provided bicycles to borrow, bike repair and one-on-one teaching of the basics of bicycle maintenance, and hosted a ride to the nearby Charles River pathways. At the end of four hours, kids had the skills to ride safe and fix smart, and eleven bicycles were donated to families who did not have access to bikes.
The beauty of CommonWheels is the broad range of community we’re able to serve through our events, due in large part to the support and outreach of our neighborhood partners. Although four of the bikes donated went to Charlesview residents, seven other bicycles went to families who do not live at Charlesview—but in the nearby housing development of Faneuil Gardens, or to families who reside with state assistance at the Days Inn Hotel less than a mile from the Josephine A. Fiorentino Community Center. The energy and community of the Fiesta attracted these families from outside of Charlesview, and in turn, these children were able to meet and play with local Charlesview residents, and their parents were introduced to the services and staff of the community center.
Over the past year, working with Charlesview staff and the Community Center, CommonWheels has hosted six different clinics on bicycle repair and riding, and donated roughly thirty bicycles to Charlesview residents. Our regular presence at Charlesview has resulted in a strong community of families who turn out, time and time again, to fix their bikes, to learn bike handling skills and safe riding, and has helped to build relationships and trust amongst the neighborhood.
We want to grow these relationships over the years. First, we get young kids riding confidently when they’re 7 years-old, and we stay with them as they learn to fix their own flat tires at age 9, and later help them design a safe route to bike to middle school when they turn 11, and we can look forward to hiring them as CommonWheels staff in their teens.
CommonWheels doesn’t view our work as a charity resource to be given out, but rather as a relationship that grows stronger and deeper with each interaction. It is through these relationships that our own collective organization, and our own sense of community, grows.
The overarching mission of CommonWheels is to “empower people to use the bicycle to enhance their lives.” We want the bicycle to be part of everyone’s lifestyle, a free way to access transportation, to gain personal freedom, and to foster a sense of community through the simple joy of riding bikes with friends and neighbors. Our work with Charlesview and our involvement with their community allow us to succeed in that mission, year after year, bike ride after bike ride.
We look forward to our continued partnership, sharing the bicycle as an avenue to enhance the lives of Charlesview residents and the greater community.