Giving Bikes a Sunny New Home

Defying the 2,600 kilometre distance, Ottawa’s biking community is helping to make a difference for bike riders in Cuba.

McCrank’s Cycles’ mechanic extraordinaire Angie Nellis has been a large part of this project. Nellis, who is one half of the two-person McCrank’s team, has been working at the bike shop for five years.

The McCrank’s Team: Nellis and owner Peter Conway

The project began with a local initiative. Every spring, the McCrank’s team assists Cycle Salvation, a program that provides bike mechanic training and employment to those who are economically disadvantaged. Cycle Salvation employees refurbish a wide variety of donated bikes and then sells these bikes from $100 to $350.

“Last year, I ended up working with them to do the training, which was a wonderful experience,” Nellis tells me. “It was actually through them that I got the idea for the Cuba bike project.”

Nellis learned that the day-to-day manager at Cycle Salvation would often bring refurbished bikes for residents as luggage on his vacations to Cuba.

“Bikes down there are more important than cars. We should really be (helping) people enjoy their daily lives and help them get to work,” Neills says.

Leading up to the now annual Cuba trips, McCrank’s gathers donated inner tubes, plastic bike parts and pedals. Nellis says that plastic parts for bicycles are often the most difficult to find in Cuba. Currently, the project works by word-of-mouth.

“Right now, we just have friends who, through their family, learn of who needs a bike. The end goal is to find a permanent structure that we could (use to) help people get involved or store bikes (in).”

In this chilly weather, it is safe to say that Nellis is looking forward to the upcoming Cuba trip. “I get to go to the beach, meet some lovely people, and help (families) while I’m down there.”

As for Ottawa’s biking community, Nellis is optimistic that it is growing and becoming a much more safer city to cycle in.

“We have a lot of people who are on a lot of associations that are very proactive to make the city more bike friendly. But we have been noticing that there are more people who are risking the winter. It’s cheaper (and) it’s faster,” Nellis explains. “There’s a lot of people come spring who will be thinking about leaving their cars at home.”

You can drop off your used bikes and bike parts at Cycle Salvation during store hours at 473 Bronson Ave.

Cycle Salvation operates under the umbrella of Causeway Work Centre. Causeway is a local not-for-profit that is committed to providing training and employment programs, independent support and cross-sector partnerships to those overcoming disabilities and other challenges.