Feature Article: Vélocity Bike Scholarship Program

(The accompanying photos show a recent Scholarship awardee being helped by Vélocity mechanic Russell Yim in the Vélocity shop. Her name is withheld for privacy reasons.)

Vélocity’s Bike Scholarship program is currently in its 3rd year. The basic idea is to provide financially challenged people with bicycles for safe, usable transportation and, through a basic maintenance class, the basic knowledge to maintain their bicycle. The program provided 12 bikes in its first two years, and this year we plan to put someone through the program every 6 – 8 weeks.

We identify individuals based on recommendations from a local shelter or affiliated organization. Candidates should be:

  1. In need of a bicycle for transportation.
  2. Unable to afford a bicycle.
  3. Not currently skilled enough to fix a bicycle.
  4. Currently residing in the Alexandria, VA area.
  5. Able to attend the 3 hour training class.

Note that additional time after the class may be required to finish preparing the bike.

The program is managed by volunteer Marty DeVine who works with a partnering organization to identify a candidate, while Vélocity shop manager Christian Myers finds a suitable bicycle based on their height and weight. Current partners include Westminster Presbyterian Church, Carpenter’s Shelter, Christ House and New Generation.

Marty arranges for the awardee to take the maintenance class from Ron Kellis and helps with follow-up maintenance of the bike. The bike itself is held until the candidate can finish refurbishing it.

When the candidate has completed the maintenance class and the bike is completely ready to go, he/she receives a helmet, U lock, lights, a multi-use tool and a certificate of completion. The appropriate shelter or affordable housing social worker will be notified of the successful completion of the scholarship.

The program’s policy statement lays out everything in a neat methodical way, but things become messy when policy meets the real world. Potential participants often work irregular schedules and lack reliable transportation – that’s why they need a bike – issues that make it hard for them to get to the shop for the instruction sessions and to work on their scholarship bike.

Here is Marty’s write-up of a recent participant in the program.

We had out most enthusiastic graduate EVER get his bike today: Sam.

“He is the guy who came by Vélocity several times in hopes of getting on the bike scholarship program. Sam lives at a local shelter and he walked to Vélocity and back each time — except for the time Christian drove him home.

“Sam is so happy to be a recipient of the scholarship. Today he called me and left a voicemail thanking me profusely because he and Christian worked on his bike until 12:30 pm and they finished the repair work.

“The bike he fixed up will make a HUGE difference in his life and he explained why.  Sam works in Arlington at a gas station from 4 or 5 pm until midnight or 1 am. Often the tasks Sam has to do to close everything up for the night take far too long because he has to help customers who stop in right before closing. That means that when Sam finishes work, he has often missed the last bus. So, until Sam got the bike, he had to walk over 4.5 miles home to the local shelter after having worked until late.

“His message on my voicemail is very nice, and then he called me again a few hours later to tell me on the phone how much the bike means to him. Sam said he wanted me to thank everyone that made it possible for him to get a bike.

You can help with Vélocity’s Bike Scholarship program by publicizing it to local homeless shelters and church and community groups, screening applicants, or just by donating a bike. To get involved or to get more information, drop us a line at spokeperson@velocitycoop.org or call the Vélocity shop at 703-549-1108.

Vélocity Upcoming Events

Be sure to check our Meetup page for new events and other schedule changes.

Repeating Events

Volunteer Night at the Warehouse

When: Every Tuesday and Thursday night, 6:30 – 9:00 PM

Where: the Vélocity Warehouse, 1502 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria.

Note that you have to go around to the back! Otherwise you’ll just see storefronts having nothing to do with bicycles!

This time is open to anyone who wishes to volunteer at Vélocity. During our volunteer nights you’ll learn bicycle mechanics by working hands-on refurbishing donated bicycles. These nights are open to people of all skill levels.  You’ll be surrounded by good people and learn about Vélocity as well.

The first Tuesday and third Thursday of every month is New Volunteer Orientation Day!

Open Shop Night

When: Every Wednesday night, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Where: Vélocity Bicycle Cooperative, 2111 Mt. Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA

Help our Open Night patrons fix their bikes or come get help fixing your bike! Get an instant feeling of satisfaction watching someone leave with a bike you helped them fix. Learn from the other Véloteers! Pass on what you know! If it’s slow and there are no donations to fix, work on your bike with advice from Senior Véloteers!

East of the River Bicycle Clinic

When: June 9th, June 23rd, July 14th, July 28th, August 11th, August 25th from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

Where: Anacostia Library, 1800 Good Hope Road Southeast, Washington D.C.

Vélocity will be teaming up with Bike House & GearinUp to assist with their East of the River Bicycle Clinic program again! Help us support their efforts bringing bicycles and lots of fun to Southeast DC.

We’ll be providing free bicycle checks and maintenance to the Southeast DC community who does not have easy access to bicycle shops.

Four Mile Run Farmers Market AAAs

When: July 15th, Aug 19th, Sept 16th, Oct 21st from 9:00 PM to 1:00 PM.

Where: Four Mile Run Farmers Market, 4109 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA, 22305

Vélocity will be coming to Four Mile Run Farmers Market 3rd Sunday of every month in 2018 offering: “Advice, Assessments & Adjustments”.
Volunteers will be on-hand for folks to ask questions about bicycling. Bring your bike and they’ll perform an assessment to determine if there are any areas that might need fixing. Minor adjustments will be made onsite.


Other Upcoming Events

Charles Barrett ES PTA Kid’s Bike Rodeo

When: Thursday, June 21, 2018, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Where: Charles Barrett Elementary School

1115 Martha Custis Dr, Alexandria, VA

(Go to Teacher’s Parking Lot)

VéloCity is teaming up with Alexandria BPAC, Phoenix Bikes and Charles Barrett Elementary School’s PTA to provide free bike checks and maintenance for young kids.

While we’re checking bikes, kids will have a chance to get their helmets sized, ride an obstacle course, and get information from other community groups.