Summertime in Park County sees an increase in hummingbirds and cross country bicyclists. This past week was no different, with the exception of a gaggle of bicyclists who pedaled through Park County with a stop in Fairplay where they ate, slept and gave a presentation on affordable housing.
What? Why would bicyclists give a presentation on affordable housing? This particular group of 31 bicyclists is part of a charitable organization called “Bike and Build.” Yes, they cycle across the country, but there is a twist.
“For every five days that we bicycle, we have one build day,” Celete Kato, one of the four trip leaders for this summer’s Bike and Build cross country trip.
Kato explained that they began their trip of 4,018 miles, which they will complete in 77 days, in Yorktown, Va., and will finish in Oregon. In Colorado, their build day was in Pueblo, where half of the group did repair and maintenance projects at the ReStore Habitat for Humanity building, and the other half painted, repaired an awning, did trim, and worked on a porch of the home of a Pueblo resident.
Although Bike and Build is not a religious organization, they often stay at churches, such as the South Park Community Church that gave the riders shelter and also provided a meal for them. Other organizations that host them are YMCAs and other community groups.
When looking for places to build, the bicyclists partner with local homeless ministry groups, and agencies such as Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army.
The bicyclists follow the Adventure Cycling Association’s, 1976 bicentennial cross country route.
“In Colorado, we had some trouble; three to four riders were pulled over by the police on Highway 9 just after leaving Hartsel on the way to Fairplay, and the police gave us a warning and said we were not allowed to be cycling there,” Kato said.
Kato and her team also gave a presentation at South Park Community Church in Fairplay on their organization’s mission, which is “affordable housing.”
“We don’t have any policy recommendations; we are an advocacy organization to raise awareness about affordable housing,” Kato said, and added, “Regarding affordable housing: we use a standard definition that government uses, which is 30 percent of a household’s income goes for rent.”
“There are zero places in the U.S. where you can work a minimum wage job full time and afford a one-bedroom apartment,” Kato said.
Per the Bike and Build website, “People are not earning enough to keep pace with rising costs of living. The federal minimum wage has stagnated at $7.25 since 2009.
Per the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment at Colorado.gov, “Colorado’s minimum wage is $11.10 per hour.”
In addition to raising awareness and working in local communities along the way, the bicyclists provide small grants from any money they have left over from their trip funds. Applications for projects related to affordable housing and also getting young people involved in volunteering are reviewed.
Bike and Build Mission
Pastor Kenny Shaw of SPCC in Fairplay describes the organization as “a non-profit organization that rides across the country to raise support and awareness for our country’s need for affordable housing.”
Their website is www.bikeandbuild.org.
According to Kato, riders must be ages 18 -26, and they need to ride 500 miles prior to leaving on a cross-country trip, and they also need to volunteer 15 hours or more in the area of affordable housing.
“We have three cross country routes and two regional routes this summer. Our route is the Central United States, and we will cycle from Yorktown, Va. to Astoria, Ore. It’s about 4,018 miles over 77 days,” Keto said.
When asked if the BB organization supports governmental solutions only, or is also open to free-market solutions, Kato said, “We listen to communities, and we know that what works in Virginia doesn’t necessarily work in Kansas.”
Brian Ramirez, president and campus coordinator of the Turning Point USA’s chapter on the University of Colorado Campus at Colorado Springs said, “I’m originally from New York City, and housing there is expensive.
“This is due to so much government regulation on landlords and property owners. With all the rules and regulations, there is no incentive for anyone to build housing.”
Ramirez added, “In Colorado we should let the free market set prices.With deregulation of landlords and property owners, there will be more building and the analogy I like to give is that of plasma televisions in 2001. They were five to six thousand dollars, and there were not a lot of companies making them. Now, you can by a 55” television for $300 to $400.
A visit to the Bike and Build website will provide a sober reminder about bicycle safety for riders and drivers. Four fatalities of cyclists have occurred on BB rides. All four cyclists were following the rules of the road at the time, but were hit.