COVENTRY — Right off of the Coventry Greenway, located inside a repurposed shipping container at the town’s transfer station, the Coventry Bike Bank is officially open for business.
Similar to the town’s furniture bank, which donates gently-used furniture that would otherwise be discarded, the bike bank takes like-new bicycles destined for the landfill and instead gives them to Coventry residents who want them.
“We always wanted to build on the furniture bank idea,” Melissa Soares, special duties clerk at the Coventry Department of Public Works, said Wednesday morning during a small grand opening celebration.
Opened at the Coventry Transfer Station in 2019, the furniture bank has certainly proven its worth. In the span of just one year, the program diverted 6,600 pounds from the solid waste stream, which in turn has saved taxpayers' money.
Among Rhode Island municipalities, Coventry is leading the way in the effort to divert waste from the Central Landfill, Soares said. In 2020, the town achieved a diversion rate of 36.7 percent, according to a presentation last week by Public Works Director Kevin McGee, compared to the state’s rate of 34 percent.
The Bike Bank should help the town improve its rate even further.
“All of these little things add up to our diversion rate as a whole,” Soares said.
The program isn’t only about diverting waste from the landfill, however.
“I can’t tell you how [cycling] has changed me life — in every way,” said Soares, a competitive cyclist who called the bike bank a “passion project” for her.
“For me,” she continued, expanding on the furniture bank by creating a way to get bicycles to residents “was a go-to.”
Jackie Anthony, Coventry’s recycling coordinator, added that she expects the program will be especially popular since the pandemic has led more people to seek adventure in the great outdoors. The demand for bikes has skyrocketed, and these days they’re not so easy to come by.
“In today’s market, bikes are not readily available,” McGee said Wednesday. “We’re trying to offer a service. If a child has outgrown their bike, they can bring their bike that’s in good condition and they can take a bike that fits them.”
Bob Robillard, Coventry’s director of human services, noted that many of the town’s seniors are caregivers for their grandchildren. He said he anticipates this program will be helpful for them, in particular.
“When you’re a caregiver, and you’re elderly, and you don’t have a lot of means, this is really a good option,” he said. “This is an opportunity, not only to collaborate [with the Public Works Department], but to communicate to folks that there’s an option that wasn’t there previously.”
But the bikes aren’t only for those who can’t afford to buy one new — all residents of Coventry are invited to use the service.
“It could be someone who has the means to buy another bike, but why keep buying more and more stuff?” Soares said. “The things we can reuse, why not?”
The benefits of cycling — especially amid the current global health crisis — are numerous, Anthony and Soares pointed out. And with the Coventry Greenway offering miles of smooth riding and beautiful scenery, having easy access to bicycles should be especially appealing to the town's residents.
“I can’t stress enough how amazing our greenway is,” Soares said, adding that she hopes to collaborate soon with the Parks and Recreation Department on organizing a bike parade.
Town Councilor Hillary Lima echoed that.
“We have probably some of the best greenway in the state,” she said, “and more people are spending time outside than ever.”
A red ribbon was stretched loosely across the entrance to the Bike Bank Wednesday morning, around a dozen bikes visible behind it.
From the corrugated walls of the bike bank hung a collection of bicycles of various sizes and styles, all up for grabs. A yellow and black Huffy dangled beside a blue Avalon; in the corner was parked a pink kid’s bike with a polka-dotted seat and handlebars.
Several donated helmets and a car rack sat on the floor.
“There’s something for everybody,” Anthony said, standing at the transfer station, between the shipping containers that house Coventry’s furniture and bike banks.
“I’m super excited about this” added Lima, who cut the ribbon on the bike bank, marking its official opening. “I applaud [Soares], [McGee], and the team here for having the forward thinking to get this done for Coventry.”
The Coventry Bike Bank will accept gently-used bikes — if there’s an issue, like a flat tire, that can be easily fixed, that’s OK — bike accessories, and scooters. Cash donations will also be accepted, and will be used to purchase things like helmets and tire pumps. The bank will be open at the Coventry Transfer Station, 1670 Flat River Road, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to noon and 12:30 to 3 p.m.