Prior to his Youth Apprenticeship at Cycles for Change, Eugene Bedeley had very little bicycling experience. He got his first bike in kindergarten but because he lived in busy New York, his bike sat in the garage. But in 2008, his family moved to Minnesota and he bought a bike from a garage sale. He originally took it to get fixed at a bike shop that was too expensive for him, so they recommended he come to Cycles for Change.
What started out as a hobby of fixing bikes turned into a job. Eugene came to C4C and learned how to work on his bike, and after honing those skills, was offered a spot in the Youth Apprentice Program in 2011. He worked during open shops for the next two years until he graduated from high school.
“Being in the Cycles for Change environment nurtured my enthusiasm to bike,” Eugene explained. He gained confidence in his riding skills and became an avid winter cyclist, commuting from home to school to C4C and back. “Riding was a stress reliever, so I liked to ride before school,” he said. With that zeal, and with the encouragement of C4C’s youth programs coordinator, Eugene had the chance to help teach a winter cycling class at C4C. “I loved the opportunity to teach. The C4C environment made it easy,” he said.
Besides learning bike mechanics and gaining teaching experience, Eugene was also exposed to the different social issues that affect Cycles for Change’s community. “C4C shaped my beliefs and viewpoints of social issues,” he said. “The family I have, their political beliefs are a lot different than C4C’s beliefs. Spending a lot of time at C4C helped me to see things differently, for the better. C4C is all about treating people equally and believes strongly in social justice. They have a positive impact on the community.”
Eugene believes the most important cause Cycles for Change is committed to is youth leadership. “The youth apprenticeship program helps define youths as capable leaders of social issues—issues like achievement gaps and income gaps,” he said.
He is grateful he was able to be a part of a group of people who care about and fight for what is right. “When we were trying to get a bike lane on University [Avenue], people would go to the city council meetings,” he said. “I saw how my voice, through the right channels, can have an effect. The bike lane didn’t end up on University, but was still established, just one block north.”
And this sense of community was also experienced outside of Minnesota and Cycles for Change. As a youth apprentice, Eugene had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Bike!Bike! Conference in New Orleans and the 2012 Youth Venture Summit in Washington, D.C. “These conferences are where places like C4C come together to talk about what they are doing and how to make things better,” he explained. “I really saw how people had a strong sense of social justice and were certain about their views. [The youth venture conference] had youth who were creating enterprises to help change the world.”
With the knowledge he has from Cycles for Change and similar organizations across the country, Eugene feels inspired. He has transferred his love of fixing bikes to fixing aircrafts and is currently a mechanic at Delta. Though he no longer commutes by bike and is surrounded by coworkers who drive, he says he would love to associate with the bicycling commuter community again. “I believe in a car-free lifestyle,” he said. “Being someplace where everyone is biking as commuting would help me get back into biking.”
Eugene said having another experience like the experience he had at C4C might do the trick to get him biking full-time again. “If I was able to get a bike, ride it, come to C4C all over again, help people, do volunteer night, and get people to ride their bike everywhere, that would help.”