A small group of Binghamton University students and alumni are putting pedal to the metal to raise money and awareness for affordable housing by biking from coast to coast.
Five BU-affiliated participants are biking with Bike & Build, along with 30 other volunteers. The organization was started in 2003 by Marc Bush, who led a cross-country cycling trip with the now-discontinued Yale Habitat Bicycle Challenge in 2001. That experience inspired him to expand on that model and consequently create Bike & Build, which now operates eight cross-country and two regional trips yearly as a way to help create fair and decent housing.
The riders will bike for 10-11 weeks beginning in May, covering approximately 70 miles a day from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. They will advocate for the cause and dedicate 10-15 days to building housing in local areas on their specific route — which range from Maine to Santa Barbara — with organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
In order to participate, the riders need to independently fundraise $4,500 each. Bike & Build expects to raise $600,000 with this trip, which will go toward different organizations and can be used for initiatives such as spreading awareness or building houses for over 300 affordable-housing nonprofits across the country.
Justin Villere, the director of operations for Bike & Build, said that Bush hopes to advocate for affordable housing while letting participants have a meaningful experience, and stressed that participants do not need to be professional cyclists.
“We call it the Triangle of Awesome,” Villere said. “Riders will have an adventure that they may never get a chance to do again by seeing the country by bike. They’ll do it with 30 other passionate young adults from all over the country who they will develop lasting relationships with and they’ll complete some much-needed, fantastic service work for individuals and families in need.”
Though the University is not affiliated with the venture, BU students are getting involved. Shane Tracy, a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering, said that raising the money is not an easy task, and he has been reaching out to friends and family and plans on talking to BU and local businesses for sponsorship. Tracy has also set up a rider page via the Bike & Build website, where people can donate.
Tracy said that he hopes that the ride will be an enlightening experience both due to the cause and the people he will be riding with.
“I am looking forward to meeting like-minded people and creating lifetime friendships, seeing the country in a way that others only dream about, spreading awareness about affordable housing and helping as many people as possible along the way,” Tracy said.
Katherine Barone, a BU alumna who graduated in 2014 with a degree in economics, is participating in the ride as well and, like many others, found out about the ride through word of mouth.
“I was trying to figure out how to justify riding my bike across the country, when a friend of mine told me about Bike & Build,” Barone said. “It seemed like a great way to see more of the country, while also volunteering for an awesome cause.”
In addition to the $600,000 that Bike & Build hopes to provide to affordable-housing nonprofits around the country, each rider will donate $500 to the affordable housing affiliate of their choice. In the past, Bike & Build has donated $1,200 to Broome County Habitat for Humanity, $1,000 of which came from the riders’ $500 donations.
Barone said that her family and friends have been generous in helping her fundraise and that she will be reaching out to some local businesses as well as the BU Alumni Association to ask for support.
“I think this trip will be about physical and mental toughness,” Barone said. “We will be biking anywhere from 30-100 miles per day and I am sure I’ll need to find some inner strength to stay focused. I’m excited to meet new people and explore new communities throughout the South.”