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Bicycle organizations sending mountain bikes to Puerto Rico

December 22, 2017

In this Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 photo provided by BiCi Co, volunteer Seth Max displays a group of bikes that have been donated for shipment to Puerto Rico. Several bicycling advocacy groups in Connecticut have teamed together to collect and refurbish bikes to send to the hurricane-ravaged island, and to give to children relocating from Puerto Rico to Connecticut. (Joseph Dickerson/BiCi Co via AP)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — For weeks, the Rev. Hector Otero has been arranging shipments of bottled water, medical equipment and other supplies to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. He recently became aware that residents on the island could use something else: bicycles.

September’s hurricane left many roads in bad shape and many residents, especially in the mountains, stranded without transportation.

Otero, pastor of Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal church in New Haven, connected with Paul Hammer, a board member of the Connecticut-based organization Bikes for Kids .

Hammer reached out to others and began to form a loose coalition of community bicycle organizations in the state to work on the problem.

About 30 bikes have so far been collected and repaired for the project by Bikes for Kids in Essex, BiCi Co. in Hartford and the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op in New Haven.

About half of them, mostly mountain bikes, are being sent to Puerto Rico in a shipping container next week along with other supplies, Otero said. They are heading to mountain towns such as Comerio, Orocovis and Baranquitas where it is still difficult to navigate damaged roads by motorized vehicles.

“We hope this will help move people to their jobs or students to their schools,” Otero said.

Hammer said the organizations plan to continue collecting and repairing bikes for future shipments.

They also are working on bikes for children whose families were displaced by Hurricane Maria and have since moved from the island to Connecticut, which has a large Puerto Rican population.

Those bicycles will be given out during a Three Kings Day celebration on Jan. 6 in New Haven organized by the city and ARTE Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes education, art and culture in the Latino community.

Hammer said this project has helped pave the way for what may become a permanent consortium, pooling the resources of numerous organizations that already recycle bicycles in their local communities.

“For a small state, we have an abundance of community bicycle programs that all do different things, but all recycle bikes,” Hammer said. “There are so many bicycles in attics and basements, garages and police stations — abandoned bikes. This is a way of refurbishing these bikes and putting them in the hands of people who need them.”

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