Bike & Build is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which organizes cross-country cycling trips to benefit the affordable housing cause in the United States. Participants on Bike & Build trips are of ages 18 25, and may or may not have previous cycling or volunteer experience. Rides have up to 34 participants (including 4 designated leaders), and take 8 11 weeks to travel across the United States. Bike and Build riders spend 8 10 days en route building houses.
Since its inception in 2002, Bike & Build has directly involved over 1,250 young adults and has donated over $3.3M to affordable housing charities to fund projects executed by young people.
Riders are required to raise $4500 each before starting: part is used to run the trips, and the remainder is donated to affordable housing organizations. Additional donations are sometimes collected en route. Some trips donate their money to specific organizations or chapters, and others work on a grant system. Under the grant system, groups benefiting the affordable housing cause can apply for grants through Bike and Build. The grant applications are delivered to the grant-based trips during the ride, and the riders on those trips vote on which groups receive money, and how much to allocate to each group.
Participants need not have previous building or cycling experience, or even a bicycle; Bike & Build provides the bicycle, which participants are allowed to keep upon completion of the trip. Riders are required to complete ten hours sweat equity working with affordable housing groups before beginning the trip, and are required to ride at least 500 miles in training before their summer begins.
Life on the road
As the overwhelming majority of Bike & Build participants are college students, the trips are scheduled to fit within the confines of collegiate summer breaks. The trips depart between the middle of May and the middle of June, and finish approximately two months after the departure date.
Most days during the 8 9 weeks of each trip are spent riding. Participants ride an average of about 70 miles per day. Overnight stays are arranged in advance of the trip, and are usually at churches or other community centers. Occasionally, the overnight stay will be outdoors. After breakfast and packing up, riders perform a quick cleanup of the overnight location before heading out. Each ride has a van and trailer to carry the riders' gear. Once the trailer has been loaded with everybody's gear, one of the trip coordinators (the duty of driving the van is rotated between the four coordinators) drives it out and sets up a rest stop on the route where riders break for lunch. After all the riders have eaten lunch, the van and trailer continue on to the destination for the day, or to set up a second lunch stop, on longer days.
Once arrived at the daily destination, riders usually have a couple of hours of free time before dinner. Showers are available either on-site, or as arranged with a local athletic center or school where shower facilities are available. Dinner is either provided by the overnight hosts, or prepared by the riders, and is often preceded or followed by a short presentation given by the riders about Bike & Build and the affordable housing cause.
There are two types of non-riding days: build days, and days off. In either case, the usual routine is broken, as participants need not pack up their bags in the morning. During build days, participants are taken to a local build site where they make direct contributions of effort towards the affordable housing cause by assisting at the site.
Bike & Build was spun off from the Yale Habitat Bicycle Challenge, and was founded by Marc Bush, a Yale alumnus and HBC participant. He was also the director of Bike & Build from 2003-2005. Shaunna Thomas was the Interim Director in 2005 until Amelia Hanley was hired. Amelia served as Executive Director from 2005 - July 2008, when she stepped down to attend business school in New York City. Rosemary DiRita, a longtime Habitat for Humanity volunteer and former volunteer coordinator, joined Bike & Build in August 2008.
Chris Webber, a trip leader on the Northern U.S. route in 2005, was hired as Bike & Build's first Program Director in 2006. Chris was tragically hit and killed in a pedestrian accident in New York city in March 2007. Bike & Build maintains a memorial fund in his honor, and raises money for the fund via an alumni only ride that takes place in Florida each winter. Brendan Newman, a participant on Northern U.S. 2006 route, came on board in May 2007 and has been with the organization ever since. Amelia and Brendan continued to run operations until March 2008, when Kristian Sekse was hired as a second Program Director. Coincidentally, Kristian was also a former leader on the Northern U.S. route (2007).
In 2010, Kristian stepped down from his position as Program Director, and was replaced by Natalie Serle, another Bike & Build Alumni. Natalie is a two-time trip leader. She led both the Providence to Seattle route in 2009 and the South Carolina to Santa Cruz route in 2010.
There have been two fatalities on Bike & Build trips. On July 20, 2010, Bike & Build trip leader Paige Hicks was struck and killed by a truck on a highway near Vetal, South Dakota. On June 6, 2011, trip leader Christina Genco was struck and killed by a car on a highway near Rainsville, Alabama.
Move to Philadelphia, PA
From its creation in 2002 until July 2008, the Bike & Build office held various addresses throughout New York City. While easy access to three airports was useful for travel accommodations, the overall cost of rent and storage space within the city was too high for the organization. In fact, Bike & Build was not able to afford its own commercial lease, and instead relied on subletting from existing tenants. The Staff and Board of Directors felt that with a transition to a new Executive Director approaching, alternative office locations should be considered. Philadelphia was selected as both a more cost effective city, and as an ideal staging area for the summer trips (big airport, cheap rent, cheap storage for vans and trailers, etc.). There were also many college campuses within easy reach of the office, which allowed the staff to take on several interns during the year. On Rosemary's first day as Executive Director, Brendan and Kristian greeted her in Philadelphia with a moving truck full of the New York City office furniture and computers.
2002 - Marc Bush established Bike & Build as a registered 501(c)(3) organization with the IRS.
2003 - The first two routes, Northern US and Central US were launched.
2004 - The Providence to Seattle route was added.
2005 - The Southern US and Rocky Mountain routes were to be both added this summer, but the Rocky Mountain route never made it beyond the initial planning stages. Southern U.S. originally ran from Maryland to San Francisco, but following the devastation of the Gulf Coast was rerouted to start in Jacksonville, FL. Jacksonville remains the start location to this day.
2006 - Providence to San Francisco made its first run successfully, bringing the total number of routes to five. It was the first Bike & Build route to share an origin (Providence) and a destination (San Francisco) with another route (Providence to Seattle and Southern US, respectively).
2007 - A sixth new route from Nags Head, NC to San Diego, CA was added
2008 - Boston, MA to Santa Barbara, CA route added.
2009 - Charleston, SC to Santa Cruz, CA route added. SC2SC route is 4,147 miles, and the proceeds from the ride will be used to fund a Blitz Build house, constructed by the participants, in Colorado Springs, CO with Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity (http://www.pikespeakhabitat.org/)
2009 - Bike & Build's Capital Ride was created and ran for the first time. Starting in Richmond, VA and ending in Philadelphia, $10,000 of the proceeds were donated directly to Rebuilding Together Philadelphia. The ride was created not only to provide a sizable grant to the local Philadelphia community, but also allow those students who cannot take an entire summer off from work at least a small taste of what Bike & Build is all about.
2010 - Bike & Build trip leader Paige Hicks was killed by a collision with a truck outside of Vetal, South Dakota.
2011 - Bike & Build trip leader Christina Genco was killed by a collision with a car outside of Rainsville, Alabama.
Bike & Build currently organizes eight cross country routes:
- Northern U.S. (NUS) - Portsmouth, NH to Vancouver, BC, CA
- Providence to Seattle (P2S) - Providence, RI to Seattle, WA
- Providence to San Francisco (P2SF) - Providence, RI to San Francisco, CA
- Central US (CUS) - Virginia Beach, VA to Cannon Beach, OR
- Southern U.S. (SUS) - Jacksonville, FL to San Francisco, CA
- NC to San Diego (NC2SD)- Manteo, NC to San Diego, CA
- Boston to Santa Barbara (B2SB)- Boston, MA to Santa Barbara, CA
- SC to Santa Cruz (SC2SC) - Charleston, SC to Santa Cruz, CA