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What Complete Streets means for the lower income and homeless communities

February 15, 2018

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What Complete Streets means for the lower income and homeless communities

February 15, 2018

Today’s blog is from Kathryn S. Doornbos, Ph.D, Executive Director of Redemptive Cycles.


When I think of Complete Streets, I think of the 153 Earn-A-Bike clients that

Redemptive Cycles served in 2017.


At Redemptive, it is our privilege to facilitate transportation access - and be a voice - for

low-income and homeless community members for whom a privately owned motor

vehicle is not an option. Birmingham’s streets are their streets too.



Our Earner’s are folks like John. John’s life was changed one day in 2012, “[I was

walking] on the freeway - got hit by a car [...], hit and run. Somebody else called the

ambulance, didn’t even see the car. [I was] trying to take a shortcut to come across the

freeway.” John has been homeless for many years and his main mode of transportation

was walking - even as an amputee - until he heard about Redemptive and earned his

bike in 2016.


“I used to see the bikes when I came through the alley. I wondered could I get one and

fix it up. This guy [...] told me if I do some volunteer work you can probably get you one.

I don’t mind doing some volunteer work, I ain’t doing nothing out on these streets but

running into trouble.”


John has been in the shop nearly everyday since. He is a joy to us all and is never

without a story or a punchline. He uses his bike everyday, “Where it was cut at, where I

walk on it, it hurts a lot, and when I ride my bike I don’t feel none of that. My bike gets

me there a lot quicker...walking takes a long time, I have to stop and rest. With my bike I

can go on and get there.”


He traverses this city north to south, east to west. He does odd jobs all around town,

comes to spend time with us in the shop, visits with his friends, and still has doctors

appointments, “I go to the hospital on my bike, from the north side to the south side [...]

trying to get another leg made, because this one is too small and rubs a sore on the side

of my knee cap.”


For John, Complete Streets matter. He has no car. His transportation options are

limited to walking, cycling or public transit (if he can afford it). Our streets should serve

him just as well as they serve those of us privileged enough to own a car or whom have

the luxury of choice in our transportation options.


I hope that our Mayor, City Council and our 99 Neighborhood Leaders consider folks

like John when they are making strategic decisions about the future of Complete Streets

in Birmingham. John will never have a voice in those discussions but he will always be a

community member who deserves streets which are designed and maintained to enable

safe, convenient and comfortable transit.

At Redemptive Cycles, our mission is to redeem the streets. We believe getting people on bikes makes Birmingham a more connected, comfortable, and livable city. Bicycles are affordable transportation, which not only fight congestion, parking shortages, and pollution in the city center, but also boost individual health and fitness!


Through our nonprofit bike shop we sell new and refurbished bicycles at an affordable price, provide professional-quality repairs and maintenance services below market rates, and use a sliding-scale rate to reduce repair charges based on income level those in need. Through our “Earn-A-Bike” program, those in need can volunteer at the shop, learn how to repair and maintain a bicycle, and leave with a bike of their own.


Redemptive Cycles - 1305 2nd Ave N, Birmingham, AL - (205) 224-5631

Show your support by signing the Complete Streets Birmingham petition today!








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