It's no secret that people have been trying to make the Kalamazoo area, specifically downtown Kalamazoo, more bike-friendly. Lanes were changed to accommodate bikes which garnered a mixture of reactions from the public. Both good and bad.

Read more: Kalamazoo's New Bike Lanes on Westnedge Are Causing Confusion

While I understand the frustrations shared by locals with the changing of lanes and beyond, I am someone who believes that cities should be more bikeable. Arguments about climate change aside, not everyone is privileged enough to have access to a car. Living in a city where one could easily get around on a bike (or even on foot) could potentially change that person's life (think in terms of employment).

But, how do you make bicycling more accessible outside of waiting for a city to make changes to its infrastructure? You teach people. Something that is at the center of a local non-profit, Open Roads.

About Open Roads

Started in 2009, Open Roads' mission is to teach youth bicycle mechanic skills in the hopes of approving social skills and setting them up for a successful future.

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They have a few different programs tiered for different ages and levels. Their entry-level program, for example, works with kids as young as 5 up to age 18. Their advanced program is for teens 14 and older. But, their Earn-A-Bike program is really incredible.

Through their Earn-A-Bike program, kids ages 10-14 will meet once a week with instructors who will teach them hands-on bike mechanic skills, according to their website.

At the end of the program, each student earns:

  • a t-shirt and certificate
  • a bike lock
  • a helmet
  • a bicycle

An actual bicycle that they now know how to fix if they need to? That would have been an amazing option to have when I was a kid.

You can learn more about Open Roads below:

Have a Bike That's Just Sitting in Your Garage?

You can donate it to Open Roads. They do their best to take any donated bicycle and put it to use in their programs. You will have to drop it off at their location on Riverview Drive in Kalamazoo. Learn more here.

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For those of us still confined to our 4-wheeled vehicles, you'll get a kick out of these "driving commandments" for Michigan:

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