Hurricane Harvey, the first major hurricane to make United States landfall since 2005’s Wilma, broke records as the wettest tropical cyclone in American history. The resulting floods destroyed thousands of homes, displacing tens of thousands of people.

Although many victims of Hurricane Harvey continue to struggle, a Houston bike-share operator is trying to make things easier for those who lost their methods of transportation. The hurricane put around half a million cars out of commission throughout the Houston area.

In response to the damage, the executive director of Houston bike-share program BCycle formed a program called Keep Houston Rolling, which provides free bikes to those affected by the hurricane. The project’s creator, Carter Stern, got the idea by seeing his bikes all over social media after the hurricane. He saw locals using the bikes to get to work, retrieve supplies and find some fun within a depressing situation.

BCycle was fortunate to have only two of its 46 stations destroyed due to Hurricane Harvey, making the more wider-reaching effort possible for Stern and those working with him.

Igniting a Biking Culture

Stern notes that one-quarter of Houston residents make under $30,000 per year, which means an immediate car replacement is not feasible in many cases. Bikes are much more affordable and easier to repair, which is why BCycle sponsor Trek, in addition to bicycle manufacturer Giant, provided 400 hybrid bikes immediately. Privately donated bikes in the hundreds soon followed.

Hurricane-stricken residents have commented on how the bikes have given them a renewed sense of control after the storm. After seeing your property damaged and family members in harsh conditions, receiving a bike that enables you to get supplies and return to a normal routine can help alleviate the trauma caused by the highly destructive Hurricane Harvey.

BCycle has given away less than 100 bikes so far, though that number is anticipated to rise significantly throughout the next month as volunteer mechanics arrive to help build the inventory.

Bikes for Children

While adults can make sense of the storm’s impact, knowing that normalcy will eventually return, many children within Hurricane Harvey’s path are wondering if they will ever have a normal childhood again. BCycle and its partners are helping make that a quicker reality by prioritizing giving bikes to children.

Stern has emphasized how important it is to help give bikes to children, to help make them feel normal again. Ideally, even after normalcy returns, children and adults alike will continue to use their bikes as a method of transportation and fun. Stern hopes that, in addition to the exercise benefits and restorative capabilities, the biking resurgence will lead to safer cycling infrastructure as well.

The Environmental Benefits of Bike-Sharing

Bike-sharing is becoming more popular as an environmentally conscious way to travel. It’s actually a more eco-friendly means of traveling than even fuel-efficient cars and alternative fuel choices, which usually take longer to affect change and actually have an often minimal effect on the demand for oil. BCycle has proven to be a commendable model for other bike-sharing programs.

Bike-sharing programs like BCycle are doing a great thing in helping Houston residents cope with the aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey, as well as shining a light on the growing popularity of bike-sharing, a concept with both personal and environmental benefits.

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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