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Catalyzing a Cycle of Change in Communities

Every May, the League of American Bicyclists celebrates National Bike Month and the immeasurable power of the bike to improve people’s happiness, health, and wellbeing. We see this enrichment take place in communities across the country thanks to the work of local advocates who put ideas into action. To empower more of these local advocates, the League is announcing the recipients of its 18 Community Spark Grants. The Spark Grants of $1,500 each will support local organizations and their projects with a goal to increase opportunities for people to bike as a healthy and active way to get around. 

“There is no better way to keep the momentum of Bike Month rolling than through supporting the work of local changemakers,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “We’re so excited about the opportunities created by the selected projects to use the power of biking to transform lives and communities. These projects are exemplars of how small projects can have a big impact.”

The funding for eight of the 2023 Spark Grants comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the CDC’s Active People, Healthy NationSM Initiative, which is working to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027. Separately, generous support from General Motors has funded an additional 10 awards granted this year.

The 95 applications received exemplify the energy of the bike community and a widespread demand for resources to make biking better for everyone in their communities. This year’s recipients include seven event-related projects, six placemaking or pop-up projects, and five additional projects with goals to increase the safety and viability of biking. Each of the 18 projects and organizations chosen demonstrate the broad desire to diversify and expand the accessibility of biking. 

Here are how the 18 recipients of the 2023 Community Spark Grants plan to use the funding to further our shared mission of building a more Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.

13th Annual Mattapan on Wheels: The Musical Flavors of Mattapan – Mattapan, MA

“Mattapan on Wheels (MoW) is a youth led biking event created to encourage Mattapan residents to engage in physical activity, bring the community together, bring awareness to the city of Boston that Mattapan and black/brown people do bike, and provide route options about where riders can go on their bikes from Mattapan.”

Adaptive Cycling Center – Reno, NV

The Adaptive Cycling Center is “a membership-based program that will allow persons with disabilities to access our many adaptive bikes and jump directly on the trail, no bike transport needed. The overall goal of this program is to increase recreational opportunities and remove barriers for persons with disabilities.”

The Adaptive Cycling Center in Reno, NV, Flint Better Block in Flint, MI, and the Borinquen Trail in Ponce, PR, are three of our Spark Grant recipients.

Back on the Saddle Recovery Support – Bowling Green, KY 

“BikeWalkBG is partnering with Hope House, a local non-profit that serves as a recovery program. Numerous studies point to the benefits of physical activity aiding in addiction recovery. BikeWalkBG wants to bring cycling opportunities to addiction recovery patients by taking them to the trails. Together, Hope House and BikeWalkBG will purchase several mountain bikes to kickstart a new program, Back on the Saddle.”

Bike Friendly Cultural Events – Wichita Falls, TX

Two festivals, Loco for Cinco and Los Muertos, will be bicycle-friendly events. “All patrons that arrive by bike will have their admission waived (normally $10) and have a safe place to park their bike with an attendant. Any person that arrives without lights or helmet will be provided one free of charge. Our local advocacy group, Bike Wichita Falls, will host a booth to provide education on safety and promote bike opportunities in our area (promoting MTB, Road, BMX and social rides). There will be Spanish speaking volunteers available for the duration of the event. A local, mobile bike shop, Bicycle ER, has agreed to be on hand for minor tune-ups and repairs.” 

Bike Repair 101 for Farmworkers – Half Moon Bay, CA 

“Coastside on Bikes is non-profit organization focused on providing bicycle access for those in our community who most rely on them for transportation. We will identify ranches and communities who are the main recipients of our existing bike donation program, bring our team to the site, and go over the basics of bike maintenance and repair and safe riding techniques. At each site we will leave a set of bike repair supplies and we will revisit each site bi-monthly in order to refresh and check up on the supplies.” 

Bike Runnel at Capen Hall – Buffalo, NY

If a person biking wants to go from one side of the SUNY Buffalo campus to the other, they currently have to go around the centralized staircase located at one of the busiest crossroads on the North Campus or carry their bike up a large staircase. To promote biking on campus, this grant will facilitate the installation of a “bike runnel” on the staircase.

Borinquen Trail in Playa de Ponce – Ponce, PR 

“This project proposes a ‘Street Painting Day’ along approximately 3 kilometers of community streets in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico. Playa de Ponce has been suffering the effects of natural disasters and global trends that have disconnected the coastal community from other sectors. This tactical urbanism project consists mainly of a ‘Street Painting Day’ where dozens of community volunteers will be supervised in the implementation of bike symbols and pedestrian crosswalks.” 

Five Points South Bike racks – Birmingham, AL

“The Five Points South Bike Racks Project will provide bicycle storage facilities within the busy Five Points South Commercial District along the Red Rock Trail System in Downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The Five Points area is an historic mixed use area featuring some of the City’s most iconic destinations, including restaurants, hotels, and historic architecture and is one of the most demographically and economically diverse neighborhoods within the metro Birmingham area.”

Flint Better Block – Flint, MI 

“The Crim Fitness Foundation will work with partner organizations to create temporary installations that will serve as tangible, real life examples of Complete Streets and other built environment changes. Local colleges and maker organizations will play a significant role in supporting the installation. This will build the capacity of residents to advocate for the health of their family and communities. Through engagement and education, we aim to encourage and help neighbors understand what it will take to turn these temporary installations into long-term sustained developments of walkable, bikeable districts.” 

Tigers Pedal Forward in Sacramento, CA, Reading Riders in St. Louis, MO, and Mattapan on Wheels, in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, MA, are three of our Spark Grant recipients.

Limitless Cycling – Hudson, WI

“Limitless Cycling brings piloted adaptive bicycles to senior living facilities, community centers, local events, parks, and trails in Hudson, WI and the surrounding areas. We provide free rides to those who can no longer bicycle independently and with them create an outdoor experience for our riders and the opportunity for volunteerism for our community. We acknowledge the diversity of our community as we promote the principles of inclusion (for riders and Pilots alike) with a fleet of various adaptive bicycles so that all may enjoy the outdoors and create equity for all.” 

Mayors’ International Bike Ride – Yuma, AZ 

“The ride is hosted by the mayors and elected officials from the cities of Yuma, Somerton, San Luis, Wellton, and San Luis Rio Colorado, Yuma County as well as the Fort Yuma Quechan and Cocopah tribes. The event brings awareness to bicycle riding in our city and the safety needed for our riders. Key leaders of the community participate in the event so they get to see first hand what it is like to be a bike rider in their community.” 

Mobilizing Underserved Community Populations – Grand Rapids, MI 

“Upcycle Bikes donates used adult bikes to underserved community populations in need of an accessible and affordable transportation option. Currently, we provide bikes to refugees and homeless young adults. In 2023, we plan to increase the number of bikes we provide to these to populations and to begin serving domestic abuse victims and addiction sufferers.” 

Pop-Up Protection = Safe Cycling For All – Miami, FL 

“This project will enable BikeSafe to propose bringing pop-up protected bike lanes to schools in neighborhoods that reflect the culturally rich and diverse population of Miami-Dade County. An overarching aim of the project is that the pop-up protected bike lane demonstration will eventually serve as a landmark template for safe infrastructure for the youth who walk, bike or scoot to and from school and that the relevant local entities will utilize this template to improve conditions in their communities.”

Reading Riders Book and Bike Riding Club – Saint Louis, MO 

“The Reading Riders is a book and bike club for youth from the 3rd to 8th grades. Club members have weekly reading and gather on Saturdays to discuss the readings and go on a group bike ride. The club meets annually for six rides. The final ride is a two-day adventure that includes a ride and an overnight campout followed by a ride back to the starting point. The Reading Riders Book & Bike Riding Club offers youth and their families a safe means of developing an interest in biking and a means to build self confidence in order to consider cycling as an everyday means of transportation.”

Safe Street Popup Project – Petaluma and Santa Rosa, CA 

“Our Safe Street Popup Project will create a ‘library’ of reusable materials for the installation of temporary crosswalks, protected bike lanes, curb extensions, and other safety features. Our long-term goal is that these popups lead to more community activism leading to better bicycle infrastructure that makes our street safer for folks of all ages and abilities, resulting in more residents choosing active transportation.” 

St. Louis Traffic Calming Pop-Up Demonstration – Saint Louis, MO

“Trailnet will host a traffic calming pop up demonstration with local community partners. We will target high-crash corridors – streets where data shows a concentration of crashes impacting people walking or biking. This project will expand on Trailnet’s experience supporting and hosting traffic calming pop-up demonstrations. Trailnet offers a Traffic Calming Lending Library from which community organizations can borrow equipment to host their own pop up.”

Tigers Pedal Forward – Sacramento, CA 

The bike fix-it cafe and mechanics courses at John Still Middle School serve not only the students’ growth but also the Meadowview neighborhood, a historically underserved area of South Sacramento. The community does not have a bike shop easily accessible without a car and the closest one is more than five miles away and unaffordable for most residents. The grant will allow for the needed tools, helmets, locks and lights to provide for successful riding.

WyCo Bike-O – Kansas City, KS 

“Because much of our community relies on non-vehicular transportation, increasing the bike culture through safety education and collaborative events will directly impact residents’ comfort with cycling. We believe our efforts will promote a healthy bicycle culture by providing safe spaces to ride and safe riding education. We are working to distribute over 50 bicycles, 100 helmets, and 100 bike lights during bike month.” 

This is the second year of the League’s Community Spark Grants initiative. Our 2022 Community Spark Grants funded projects such as a bike education program that assists physicians in promoting the health benefits of bicycling to their senior patients and an open streets event featuring temporary pedestrian crosswalks, bike lanes and street art to help city officials and residents visualize how streets can be used in a way that prioritizes families and children.

The League is thrilled to be able to support these organizations as they begin to spark change and make a long-lasting impact on their communities through the Community Spark Grant program. We hope to see the benefits of these projects break down barriers within communities and enable this and future generations to know the power of the bicycle. 

Community advocates looking for other ways to receive technical assistance and/or recognition for their work to become more welcoming for people who bike should consider applying for an award from one of the Bicycle Friendly America programs. The BFA℠ program is a tool for states, communities, businesses and universities to make bicycling a real transportation and recreation option for all people and it recognizes those doing it well.