Free bikes change lives in Harlem

By: Housing Works

If you live in Harlem, you might see Joe C* riding by on his bicycle. He bikes seven days a week from his home at Stand Up Harlem House down to 96th Street. He puts his music on (really low) and heads south for 45 minutes, enjoying the camaraderie of fellow riders along the way.

Joe doesn’t own a bicycle, but as a resident of of Stand Up Harlem, one of Housing Works’ residences for low-income people living with AIDS in New York City, he can check out a bike any time he wants. He represents one of the first satisfied customers of a pilot program that brought bikes to the residents. While Joe is the most avid rider of the group, other residents have also enjoyed biking.

“It’s really freeing for me,” Joe said. “You see your city in a different way. I feel healthier. When you walk after riding a bike, you feel sexy.” Joe was diagnosed with HIV in 1993, and said he’s in the best shape that he’s been in since, thanks to the daily exercise.

The biking program is the brainchild of Housing Works CFO Andrew Coamey. Inspired by public biking programs seen throughout Europe, Coamey thought residents at Housing Works facilities should enjoy the benefits of biking. He hoped the program would encourage exercise among residents and give them freedom to explore the neighborhood.

Through the Housing Works donations department solicited the four bikes for Stand Up Harlem. Coamey is hoping to expand the program to Housing Works’ other housing units throughout the city.

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