Bikes Not Bombs uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change to achieve economic mobility for Black and other marginalized people in Boston and the Global South.
Bikes Not Bombs envisions a more just, equitable, and sustainable world powered by bicycles and led by Black and other marginalized people.
The Bikes Not Bombs community:
- Addresses the root causes of inequality, violence, and oppression
- Supports the self-empowerment of individuals and communities as a means to achieve sustainable, effective social change
- Includes all people in the social change process in order to challenge the forces and effects of systemic oppression
- Acts in solidarity with our local and international partners because this leads to collective understanding and strength
- Commits to sustainable, equitable consumption of resources as critical to the health of our communities and our planet
- Is courageous and bold in the face of injustice
- Uses the bicycle as a powerful vehicle and tool for social change
- Celebrates and builds upon the existing strengths of our partners and participants
Bikes Not Bombs work started in 1984 in the basement of Ferris Wheels Bike Shop in Jamaica Plain, with a shipment of two bikes to Nicaragua. Since then we have shipped over 80,000 bicycles and our work has expanded to include Youth Pathways employment and training programs, as well as a full service, retail bike shop.
With the help of our stellar crew of container loading volunteers we are now able to fit around 500 bikes into each 40' shipping container we send!
Theory of Change
Overseas, the demand for quality bicycles has sharply increased. Bikes Not Bombs takes its role in reclaiming bicycles out of the waste stream and repurposing them to communities in Boston and overseas seriously -- in particular, for our active international partners whose businesses and livelihood depend on timely container shipments of quality bicycles, parts, tools, and accessories to survive.
In Boston, there is also a greater need than ever to help youth develop vocational skills and pathways as an avenue for violence and gang activity prevention. Our three-year apprenticeship program engages youth staff as leaders in every BNB program.
Youth Pathways Theory of Change
In 1994, BNB established a Bike Shop & Vocational Training Center — a full-service shop to employ a diverse team of professional mechanics and Bike School graduates to recycle, refurbish, sell, and donate used bikes. BNB’s paid Youth Apprenticeship model was born, enabling marginalized youth to earn wages while building critical vocational skills through hands-on work, mentored by staff and volunteers who recognized their value, energy, enthusiasm, and potential.
Recently, Bikes Not Bombs formalized its multi-year Youth Pathways model, through which young people develop critical workplace skills, build a robust employment portfolio, and establish post-secondary plans that set the foundation for long-term economic success and thriving futures.
Bikes Not Bombs provides culturally sensitive programs that foster youth development, build vocational pathways, and cultivate sustainable communities from the ground up. In 2022, we aim to:
- Repurpose 4,000 donated bikes.
- Engage 250 local youth in programs that foster young people's ability to build, maintain, and ride bicycles.
- Employ 33 youth as paid Youth Apprentices.
- Collaborate with volunteers to ship donated bicycles to grassroots social justice organizations in the Global South.
- Train young people in our full-service bike shop.
- Connect youth and adults and a team of community partners to assess community needs, mobilize volunteers, and initiate social change.
Through our Youth Pathways Apprenticeships, graduates of our foundational Bike School programs are hired to train and work across Bikes Not Bombs operational areas, while gaining vital workplace experience — co-instructing Bike School, processing recycled bikes for shipment to community-led international programs, and organizing for social, environmental, and racial justice, and advocating for improvements to local transportation infrastructure. Youth progressively build competencies across technical and life-skill areas — ranging from mastery of bicycle mechanics to self-awareness, perseverance, curiosity, self-regulation, leadership, and community mindedness. In their final year, Apprentices develop and complete plans for post-secondary training, education, or unsubsidized employment.