June 26, 2019 | 82° F

New Brunswick Bike Exchange turns trash into treasure

Photo by Edwin Gano |

Something as simple as buying a bike can serve as a way to profit the disadvantaged members of another community.

“Members of the Princeton Freewheelers bicycle club, led by Russ White, saw a need for affordable bicycles in the area and were able to meet that need by repairing old bikes, selling the bikes cheaply to cover costs of operations,” Leighann Kimber, program coordinator of the New Brunswick Bike Exchange said via email.

Russ took notice and localized to the New Brunswick area. She wanted to start an organization, and with the help of other bicycling enthusiasts, she. The result was the NBBX, Kimber said.

“NBBX is an all-volunteer organization. We collect used, donated bicycles through bike drives and individual donations,” Kimber said.

Each and every person at the organization is a volunteer and is rewarded only with the sheer satisfaction of aiding those in need, Dan Brooks, manager of the NBBX said via email.

“We train our volunteer mechanics to repair and refurbish the bicycles. Then we sell the bicycles from our shop. All proceeds are donated to the Puerto Rican Action Board,” Kimber said.

Recycling is also a major point emphasized and encouraged by the organization, Kimber said.

“By refurbishing and selling used bikes, we prevent many used bikes from ending up in landfills. We refurbish any bike we can, and the ones that can’t be saved are stripped for spare parts … and sold to a recycling facility. Recycling what we can decreases waste and conserves materials,” Kimber said.

The life of a bike is often unconsciously underestimated by bike owners, Brooks said.

“Bikes can have a very long life, often past what the bicycle owners use or want. NBBX helps connect older bikes that can still be used with people who need them,” Brooks said.

Bike riding is essential for mental health and physical health, Brooks said.

“We promote (the health benefits) of bicycling, because we want to combat health problems like obesity and heart disease. PRAB is committed to … teaching children to make good choices about their health and to get into good routines that will stick with them the rest of their lives,” Kimber said.

Bike riding also does not pollute the environment and is a convenient way to get from place to place, Brooks said.

“The goal of NBBX is twofold. We aim to provide necessary, additional transportation to the community. By providing low-cost bicycles we are not only providing transportation, but also promoting a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, since all of our proceeds go to PRAB, NBBX is able to support important additional social services in New Brunswick,” Brooks said.

Originally, Kimber joined the organization to learn a few things about repairing bikes, but once she realized how vital the organization's efforts were to the surrounding members of the community, she really became committed.

“I believe in the mission of NBBX, and I believe that cycling is really important for a community. It helps people get around town, is efficient, creates relationships between people and places and is very fun,” Brooks said.

By promoting the use of bikes, NBBX hopes to establish the activity of bike riding as a desirable outlet of entertainment and hopes to call attention to the positive benefits of cycling.

“It can be hard and intimidating to ride a bike in a place like New Brunswick, but things really are not as bad as they appear. The existence of NBBX and our work helps put cyclists on the street and brings visibility to cycling in New Brunswick,” Brooks said.

The bikes that are sold at NBBX are well-made, and affordable, they cost less than normal bikes, Kimber said.

“We generally sell our bikes at less than half of retail value. We try our best to keep a price range on our bikes in the shop so that any customer can find something that fits their needs and budget,” Kimber said.

Anyone looking for more information about NBBX can visit the location of the organization, or attend an upcoming event, Kimber said.

“We host community bike rides led by a member of the Princeton Freewheelers … We have also done Women’s Wrench Night, a Beginner’s Bicycle Maintenance Workshop Series and various volunteer days with groups like Scarlet Day of Service … We plan to do more rodeos in the future,” Kimber said.

Since their opening in May of 2013, the organization has sold hundreds of bikes, amounting in thousands of dollars raised for PRAB. These profits, and future profits will be put to good use for the underprivileged members of Middlesex County.

Nicole Osztrogonacz

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