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New Orleans bike nonprofit BYOBikes aims to provide children from low-income households with bikes.

When Ali Brown saw a costumed bike ride in Tampa, through her participation in nonprofit Onbikes, which donates bikes to children from low-income households, she couldn’t help but imagine what a similar nonprofit based in her hometown of New Orleans would look like.

When she told her Tampa friends the idea, they jokingly asked her if it was true that New Orleanians “sleep in their costumes,” to which she replied with a laugh, “No, we have costume closets and costume trunks. We do not sleep in our costumes, not all the time.” 

When she and her father decided to move back to New Orleans — her from Tampa last year and him from Mexico a year and a half ago — the two of them started a New Orleans nonprofit modeled off of the one in Tampa. In May, they launched BYOBikes and have since procured the organization’s status as a nonprofit, started accepting donations and begun planning more activities for the months ahead.

Brown said BYOBikes already has received about $12,000 in donations since its launch and is collaborating with local bike-related organizations like BikeEasy and community bike shop Rusted Up Beyond All Recognition Bikes (RUBARB). BYOBikes also will partner with organizations working with low-income children like Boys Hope Girls Hope and Welcoming Project, a group that helps teens and young adults who have formerly been incarcerated.

This winter, BYOBikes will work with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to administer bikes to children for families, Brown said. Additionally, she plans to draw on her background in event planning to involve corporations in its mission, hosting bike builds as part of corporate team building exercises and donating funds as part of social responsibility programs.

Brown said that by providing New Orleans’ youth with bikes, through fundraising and volunteer efforts, she hopes the new set of wheels will provide the children with a means of transportation, promote a healthier lifestyle and tighten community ties.

Currently, the group is concentrating on giving bikes to children and teenagers between eight and 15 years old, with plans to expand that age range from four to 18 and then ultimately to entire families.

A donation of $150 allows BYOBikes to purchase a bike, helmet, lock, lights, bike registration with the city and a mandatory safety class for children and teenagers to take before receiving the bike. 

“We feel it's very important, especially (since) New Orleans is kind of getting used to becoming a bike city, and drivers and bikers alone need to learn how to share the road,” Brown said. “We don't want to put kids at risk out on the streets, so we feel that a safety class is really important.”

Brown said the organization would not be possible without the work that’s already been done by organizations like Bike Easy and city initiatives working to create safer bike pathways in the city.

BYOBikes hosts its invite-only launch party Tuesday night. Starting in September, the BYOBikes restart its Wednesday weekly bike rides on the Lafitte Greenway at 6:30 p.m. Rides are free and open to the community, with family-friendly games available afterward. For more information, visit the group's Facebook account.

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