History of Bikes Not Bombs

Bikes Not Bombs Founded
July 1984

Boston bike mechanic Carl Kurz and Maryland transportation planner Michael Replogle start BNB as a response to United States military backing of the Contra attacks on Nicaragua.

Carl brought two rebuilt bikes with him and biked around the countryside of Western Nicaragua with no specific contacts; his plan was simply to observe the potential for bicycles,  and speak with people and organizations who could receive shipments of bikes and distribute them effectively. During this trip, Carl established connections with the Sandinista labor federation, the CST. Soon after, Michael Replogle reached an agreement with the CST to include the Health Workers Union (FETSALUD) and Teachers Union (ANDEN) whereby one third of the bikes were awarded to each of the Unions.

Boston bike mechanic Carl Kurz and Maryland transportation planner Michael Replogle start BNB as a response to United States military backing of the Contra attacks on Nicaragua.
Carl & Mira Travel to Nicaragua
October 1984

Bikes Not Bombs ships 18 reconditioned bicycles to Nicaragua.  The boxed bikes are driven from Boston to Philadelphia, PA in a VW bus by Carl Kurz, and then shipped from American Friends Service Committee aid warehouse in Philly.

In February 1985 Carl Kurz meets up with activist and friend, Mira Brown in Managua, Nicaragua to re-assemble the bikes before they are distributed by the trade unions.

Bikes Not Bombs ships 18 reconditioned bicycles to Nicaragua.  The boxed bikes are driven from Boston to Philadelphia, PA in a VW bus by Carl Kurz, and then shipped from American Friends Service Committee aid warehouse in Philly.
BNB Chapters Emerge
November 1984

Bikes Not Bombs chapters spring up around the country to collect used bikes for Nicaragua.  Many of these chapters were started by individuals or groups inspired to act by a slide show and visit from Carl Kurz, who drove across country in an old VW bus to raise aid and awareness about the Nicaraguan revolution and the US-backed contra war against Nicaragua. Eventually coordinating shipments from a variety of locations becomes impractical and BNB establishes formal headquarters in Boston as well as a west coast shipping coordinator.

Bikes Not Bombs chapters spring up around the country to collect used bikes for Nicaragua.
US Enacts a Nicaraguan Trade Embargo
May 1985

The US government bans all trade and shipments to Nicaragua. BNB defies the embargo, labeling its bikes "aid to relieve human suffering."

The US government bans all trade and shipments to Nicaragua. BNB defies the embargo, labeling its bikes "aid to relieve human suffering."
New Managua Shop Opens
April 1986

In late April BNB officially inaugurated its new bicycle assembly and mechanic training center in Managua, Nicaragua.  The shop was staffed by an international work force of Nicaraguans, Americans, Canadians and occasional European volunteers.  The workshop is responsible for assembling the hundreds of bicycles that are being sent by North Americans to Nicaraguan development workers.

The new workshop provides jobs to several Nicaraguan trainee mechanics.  Glenn Fiscella from Newport News, VA accepted a long-term volunteer position with BNB and begins coordinating BNB's Nicaraguan based efforts.

Photo by Tony Bourque, 1986

In late April BNB officially inaugurated its new bicycle assembly and mechanic training center in Managua, Nicaragua.  The shop was staffed by an international work force of Nicaraguans, Americans, Canadians and occasional European volunteers.
First Bike-A-Thon
May 1988

The Bike-A-Thon idea came to Carl when he was working at Broadway Bicycle School, a worker-owned and collectively run bicycle shop. A group of women approached Broadway to find a woman mechanic for their Bike-A-Thon to raise money for a women's organization in El Salvador, but because there was no female mechanic, Carl ended up helping this group of 21 women to bike. This Bike-A-Thon was very successful and inspired Carl to see this incredible potential to raise awareness and money in a positive way with support from friends and family.

The first Bike-A-Thon in 1988 raises $7,000.

The Bike-A-Thon idea came to Carl when he was working at Broadway Bicycle School, a worker-owned and collectively run bicycle shop.
First Youth Earn-A-Bike Program
July 1990

The 1st Youth Earn-A-Bike program started while BNB was working in the basement of Ferris Wheels Bike Shop.  BNB wanted to provide meaningful employment for the youths in the area and started working with a group of 12 youths selected by a Latino organization in Dudley Square, Roxbury, with a small grant from the City's Transportation Department. The students would come 2-3 times a week to the basement and BNB would bring a trailer of bikes and tools to work with. When the students earned their bikes just after 5 classes, they participated and assisted BNB's 1st bike safety rodeo. Soon, this group started going to public parks in Jamaica Plain and setting up activities in tennis courts with poster boards with outlines of different bike tools for kids to learn the names and usages of, as well as leading more bike rides.

The 1st Youth Earn-A-Bike program started while BNB was working in the basement of Ferris Wheels Bike Shop.
BNB Becomes Incorporated
January 1992

About eight years into the organization, it became clear that BNB and ITDP had different organizational interests. ITDP was expanding its scope and started working with multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, trying to convince them that bikes were a good alternative to motorized transportation methods. To do that, ITDP started collecting huge amount of data, as opposed to developing hands-on projects. BNB did not want to grow in size more than it could handle and wanted to focus on maintaining the person-to-person contact in its programs. As a result BNB became incorporated as its own non-profit in Boston. Despite the separation, BNB still maintains a friendly relationship with ITDP to this day.

About eight years into the organization, it became clear that BNB and ITDP had different organizational interests.
First Bike Repair Cooperative Shop Opens in Nicaragua
June 1993

BNB’s efforts in starting a new project succeed when the El Rama shop, CORABIC, becomes first worker-owned bicycle repair cooperative shop in Nicaragua.The staff were all disabled war veterans.  In order to become sole owners of the shop, CORABIC members were levied a start-up cost at $7000 USD, including tools, bikes, and training. After two years of hard work they were able to pay off the debt to the Nicaraguan project coordinating organization, Solidez, which used the money for operating funds and to start other projects with the disabled. Fiscally solvent, CORABIC eventually assembles and sells new imported Chinese mountain bikes and pays 75% of shipping costs up-front for 300 used BNB bicycles!

BNB’s efforts in starting a new project succeed when the El Rama shop, CORABIC, becomes first worker-owned bicycle repair cooperative shop in Nicaragua.The staff were all disabled war veterans.
First BNB Location: the Bicycle Recycling & Youth Training Center
March 1994

In March BNB opens the Bicycle Recycling & Youth Training Center.  Just like how BNB was selling bicycles in Nicaragua to provide jobs, BNB wanted to create jobs for youths in Roxbury as well. They needed jobs with dignity and to learn technical skills. The skinnier tired (road style) bicycles were not very useful for Latin America, so this was also a great way to create revenue and employment from the waste stream of donated bikes.

BNB busily raised money for BNB's own Bicycle Recycling and Youth Training Center. With just under $3000, BNB was able to renovate this 2,400 sq. ft. space with many volunteers and supporters who provided the materials and labor in about 3 months.

In March BNB opens the Bicycle Recycling & Youth Training Center.  Just like how BNB was selling bicycles in Nicaragua to provide jobs, BNB wanted to create jobs for youths in Roxbury as well. They needed jobs with dignity and to learn technical skills.
First Paid BNB Staff
March 1994

Carl Kurz and Mira Brown became BNB's first paid staff as Technical Supervisors/Vocational Trainers.  Carl and Mira have both spent time in Nicaragua assembling bikes, training mechanics and coordinating Bikes Not Bombs shipments.

Carl Kurz and Mira Brown became BNB's first paid staff as Technical Supervisors/Vocational Trainers.
First Vocational Educational Program
March 1994

BNB hosts the first two-month Vocational Educational Program which trains two students in advanced bicycle mechanics with the aim of securing employment in a bike shop after the program.

BNB hosts the first two-month Vocational Educational Program which trains two students in advanced bicycle mechanics with the aim of securing employment in a bike shop after the program.
BNB's First Executive Director
September 1996

Mira Brown becomes BNB’s first Executive Director after 12 years of involvement.  Mira has 4 years of experience living in Nicaragua working on appropriate technology projects with both the Nicaraguan Government and Bikes Not Bombs, and is an experienced community organizer.  With BNB Mira previously served as a volunteer mechanic in Nicaragua and paid Technical Supervisor/Vocational Trainer.

Mira Brown becomes BNB’s first Executive Director after 12 years of involvement.
Girls In Action Begins
March 1998

The Girls in Action Program begins under the guidance of Maria Ortiz, the Youth and Girls Coordinator. The program got girls ages 9-13 excited about bikes and being physically active together (and produced BNB’s 1st ever original Bike Safety Video, made by and for urban youth!).

The Girls in Action Program begins under the guidance of Maria Ortiz, the Youth and Girls Coordinator.
Youth Training Program in DR Begins
September 1999

20 year old BNB Teen Vocational Training graduate Antonio Gonzalez organizes a youth training program in Boca De Mao, Dominican Republic. BNB ships 513 bikes and parts to the project.

20 year old BNB Teen Vocational Training graduate Antonio Gonzalez organizes a youth training program in Boca De Mao, Dominican Republic. BNB ships 513 bikes and parts to the project.
First shipment to CESTA in El Savador
September 2000

Ricardo Navarro, CESTA's founder, was a long-time friend of Carl's from BNB's early days in Nicaragua.  After returning to El Salvador, Ricardo reached out to BNB for bicycle shipments and BNB shipped 425 bikes to establish small shops run by CESTA (the El Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology) graduates.

Ricardo Navarro, CESTA's founder, was a long-time friend of Carl's from BNB's early days in Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan Bike Shipments Halted
July 2001

High custom taxes force a halt to bike shipments to Nicaragua.

High custom taxes force a halt to bike shipments to Nicaragua.
First Shipment to Maya Pedal in Guatemala
October 2001

540 Bikes and Frames are shipped to Maya Pedal, a project in the Chimaltenango region of Guatemala, to be used both as bikes and to make pedal-powered machines like grain grinders, coffee depulpers, electricity generators, cement tile vibrators, and well pumps. These machines ("bici-maquinas") empower rural farmers in villages without electricity.

BNB helps Maya Pedal to expand its operation, adding a bike shop to their pedal-powered machine business.  Additionally, BNB helped Maya Pedal to establish relationships with other domestic and international organizations, such as MIT’s D-Lab, through interviews and meetings and by inviting Maya Pedal to give presentations and garner support in the States.

540 Bikes and Frames are shipped to Maya Pedal, a project in the Chimaltenango region of Guatemala, to be used both as bikes and to make pedal-powered machines like grain grinders, coffe
First shipment to Village Bicycle Project in Ghana
September 2002

The first shipment of bikes establishes a relationship with Village Bicycle Project in Ghana.

The first shipment of bikes establishes a relationship with Village Bicycle Project in Ghana.
BNB Hub Opens
December 2006

After a receiving many generous donations, BNB is able to expand into a much bigger space. The new location at 284 Amory Street in Jamaica Plain is dubbed "The Hub" and becomes home to the International Programs, Youth Programs, Volunteer Night, and office.

After a receiving many generous donations, BNB is able to expand into a much bigger space. The new location at 284 Amory Street in Jamaica Plain is dubbed "The Hub" and becomes home to the International Programs, Youth Programs, Volunteer Night, and office.
Opening Of The Retail Bike Shop
March 2007

The Bike Shop completes moving to Bartlett Square in Jamaica Plain and now has a separate location from the Hub, a few blocks away.

The Bike Shop completes moving to Bartlett Square in Jamaica Plain and now has a separate location from the Hub, a few blocks away.
First Shipment to Ability Bikes in Ghana
April 2008

Ability Bikes starts when BNB is contacted by a group of people in Ghana who want to create something with their hands and generate income doing so despite their disabilities. After the original source for funding of the project fell through, the workers at Ability Bikes built everything from scratch on their own, requiring incredible commitment and investment from the workers themselves. Thus the economic model of Ability Bikes evolved naturally to a worker-owned co-op, much like BNB's previous work in Rama, Nicaragua.

With the first shipment of 15 bikes and David Branigan as the fieldworker, "Freedom Through Mobility" becomes the motto of Ability Bikes on both the symbolic and literal level; people with disabilities are enabling people without disabilities to be mobile by fixing and selling bicycles, a very empowering and liberating experience for the workers.

Ability Bikes also owes huge thanks to its community members who help out with strenuous physical work that could not easily be done by people with disabilities.

Ability Bikes starts when BNB is contacted by a group of people in Ghana who want to create something with their hands and generate income doing so despite their disabilities.
First Annual Youth Bike Summit
January 2011

Four youth, Derek, Will, Jelani and Abdul, and BNB Youth Development Coordinator Sarah Braker attended the first annual Youth Bike Summit in New York from January 14 - 16. The summit, hosted by Brooklyn's Recycle-A-Bicycle, featured workshops, speeches and activities, the majority of which will be youth-run. BNB's Youth Ambassadors presented about cycling and climate change.

Four youth, Derek, Will, Jelani and Abdul, and BNB Youth Development Coo
BNB Warehouse Moves to Dorchester
January 2011

BNB's storage space moves from "Building N" in the Brewery Complex (Jamaica Plain) to a new space in Dorchester's Four Corners neighborhood. During the summer after the move, BNB runs a monthly free bike tune up day in the parking lot outside the new warehouse. 

BNB's storage space moves from "Building N" in the Brewery Complex (Jamaica Plain) to a new space in Dorchester's 
First Annual Building Momentum Breakfast
April 2011

Bikes Not Bombs’ first annual Building Momentum Breakfast is held at the William Devine Golf Clubhouse at Franklin Park.  With over 130 people in attendance, guests enjoyed a delicious breakfast donated by our friends at Ula Café.  Bikes Not Bombs leaders and volunteers Bob Thomas, a Jamaica Plain resident and devoted volunteer and donor, Executive Director Samantha Wechsler and BNB Youth Instructor, Zacorah Jackman shared their stories of BNB's work.

An amazing 80% of those in attendance were inspired to support BNB’s work through financial donations.  We are incredibly pleased and honored to report that in total, the 2011 Building Momentum Breakfast raised over $130,000 in gifts and multi-year pledges.  Read more about the Breakfast.

Bikes Not Bombs’ first annual Building Momentum Breakfast is held at the William Devine Golf Clubhouse at Franklin Park.
BOCA Forms
December 2011

Formerly the Youth Ambassadors, the five Youth Employees who spend their time spreading the mission of BNB are now called B.O.C.A - Bicyclists Organizing for Community Action.

Formerly the Youth Ambassadors, the five Youth Employees who spend their time spreading the mission of BNB are now called B.O.C.A - Bicyclists Organizing for Community Action.
First Shipment to the Amuru Village Health Team in Uganda
December 2011

Amuru, Northern Uganda, was in dire need of reconstruction after 20 years of civil war that ended in 2007. BNB became aware of the need for reconstruction through BNB supporters who were volunteering in the region at the time. Amuru was the biggest and the most crowded displacement camp during the war housing about 20,000 people with scarce resources.

When the war was over, the refugees dispersed and formed towns surrounding the camp, and local healthcare centers nominated hundreds of health workers as community ambassadors who would travel to these towns to provide healthcare or connect them to healthcare centers. This democratic healthcare system was essential to the post-war reconstruction, but mobility was a huge limitation for the health workers.

When the project first started, only 20% of the workers had bicycles, and when David Branigan (BNB's International Director) attended a general meeting for the health workers beginning of the project, he talked to a health worker who had started walking at 5PM the day before to get to a meeting at noon that day. The health workers were so strongly motivated by the hope of rebuilding the community after a long war that they were willing to make village visits despite the long distances on their foot. This was a great inspiration for BNB and thus the first project began in Uganda with a shipment of 433 bicycles.

Amuru, Northern Uganda, was in dire need of reconstruction after 20 years of civil war that ended in 2007. BNB became aware of the need for reconstruction through BNB supporters who were volunteering in the region at the time.
Chain Reaction Launches
March 2012

After months of project development, fundraising, flyering and bike repairing, Boston's first youth-run, mobile, after-school bike shop opens!  Chain Reaction offers low cost repairs and free repairs to those who want to learn and do the work.

After months of project development, fundraising, flyering and bike repairing, Boston's first youth-run, mobile, after-school bike shop opens!  Chain Reaction offers low cost repairs and free repairs to those who want to learn and do the work.
50,000th Bike Shipped
December 2012

BNB ships our 50,000th bike to Ability Bikes in Ghana as part of a shipment of 535 bikes. See the full story and video!

BNB ships our 50,000th bike to Ability Bikes in Ghana as part of a shipment of 535 bikes. See the full story and video!
BNB Partners with Bici-Tec in Guatemala
January 2013

Carlos, the founder of Bici-Tec, used to be the head technician at Maya Pedal, and when he left, BNB wanted to support him in his new vision of creating a social enterprise. Carlos wanted to develop a school that would teach adults in Guatemala about bike pedaled technology. He felt that bicycle machines were middle-ground between artisanal (traditional way of doing work) and the industrial way of doing things with engines and saw an enormous potential for economic development and autonomy from bicycles, because all the resources were local.

Carlos, the founder of Bici-Tec, used to be the head technician at Maya Pedal, and when he left, BNB wanted to support him in his new vision of creating a social enterprise.
2013 Strategic Plan Approved
August 2013

After an intensive collaborative process involving Hub staff, Shop staff, Youth Employees, Board members, and key volunteers, BNB approves a new Strategic Plan which includes an updated mission statement, new guiding principles, and concrete goals and strategies for the coming five years. 

After an intensive collaborative process involving Hub staff, Shop staff, Youth Employees, Board members, and key volunteers, BNB approves a new Strategic Plan which includes an updated mission statement, new guiding principles, and concrete goals and strategies for t
Bici-Tec Holds First Session of the School of Appropriate Technology
June 2014

Bici-Tec hosts the first session of the School of Appropriate Technology.  Three students, two from the USA and one from Kenya, learn about and create bici-maquinas.

Bici-Tec hosts the first session of the School of Appropriate Technology.  Three students, two from the USA and one from Kenya, learn about and create bici-maquinas.
Strategic Planning Retreat
March 2015

Staff and Board members from BNB came together to assess and reinvision our Strategic Plan.

Staff and Board members from BNB came together to assess and reinvision our Strategic Plan.
Launch of Adult Earn-A-Bike
April 2015

The Adult Earn-A-Bike program started under the guidance of Shop Mechanic Derek McIntire.  AEAB filled the holes in Bikes Not Bombs' programing to provide access to bikes for adults who identify as low income, formerly incarcerated, a recent immigrant and/or living in an area underserved by public transportation.  Modeled after our youth Earn-A-Bike program, Adult Earn-A-Bike teaches bike maintenance, safe riding skills, and gives graduates unlimited access to our open shop time, all condensed into a schedule that works for busy adults.

In the first six months of the pilot program six graduates received refurbished hybrid bikes, a helmet, lock and lights.

The Adult Earn-A-Bike program started under the guidance of Shop Mechanic Derek McIntire.
BOCA starts Know Your Rights Trainings
July 2015

After hearing countless stories about youth members being stopped and harassed by police, Bicyclists Organizing for Community Action (BOCA), the youth activism program of Bikes Not Bombs, worked with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, National Lawyers’ Guild and law firm Jason & Fischer to develop a training on the responsibilities of cyclists to follow traffic laws and their legal rights when interacting with the police.

The Know Your Rights training is now built into the schedule for each of our Earn-A-Bike and Girls In Action programs and is offered in collaboration with a number of partner groups throughout Boston.

Read more about the development of the Know Your Rights training.

After hearing countless stories about youth members being stopped and harassed by police, Bicyclists Organizing for Community Action (BOCA), the youth activism program of Bikes Not Bombs, worked with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, National Lawyers’ Guild and law
First Shipment to Cycloville in Kenya
July 2015

539 bikes along with tons of parts, tools and accessories are shipped to Cycloville, a network in bike shops in Nairobi, Kenya.  These bicycles, spare parts and tools will be used to build the bicycle industry in Kenya, create employment opportunities for youth and grow the movement of cyclists in Nairobi to push for infrastucture and policy changes.

Cycloville first contacted Bikes Not Bombs via Facebook in July of 2014, and the official partnership was announced in May of 2015. BNB is assisting Cycloville to stabilize the supply chain of bicycles and spare parts into Kenya, to develop a youth mechanics training program and to address issues of gender equity within Cycloville and the broader cycling community of Kenya.

539 bikes along with tons of parts, tools and accessories are shipped to Cycloville, a network in bike shops in Nairobi, Kenya.