Big smiles are what Lindsey Silver can recall witnessing following the 3rd Annual River Forest Bike Exchange hosted at Roosevelt Middle School this past Saturday, as people braved the weather to get a bike just in time for Spring.
Hosted at the middle school, 7560 Oak Ave., this year’s bike exchange, which provides community access to affordable bikes while looking out for the planet through the sustainability efforts of District 90’s PTO’s Green4Good Committee, was the biggest exchange to date.
Silver, chair for Green4Good at Lincoln Elementary, said the idea for the bike exchange stemmed from the need for affordable bikes she witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Silver brought the idea to her Green4Good committee, which was started by local moms in District 90’s PTO to bring education and a focus on sustainability into the district, and received positive feedback from the community, who expressed the need for such an event. The event also received support from the River Forest Sustainability Commission and the River Forest Police Department.
Three years later, the program continues to be a hit as its reach expands beyond River Forest.
“It feels like we hit some sort of momentum, we hit our stride,” Silver said. “It is really great to see.”
This year, the bike exchange received more than 200 bikes, ride-ons, and accessory donations. Additionally, 100 bikes were exchanged on Saturday. Exchanges was one of the original goals behind the event’s inception.
“It was the primary vision of the event, with the thought of sustainability was that kids, close to ever year, in elementary school or middle school ages are needing a new bike because they are outgrowing theirs and instead of doing whatever they were doing in the past, this is a great way to reach out to our community and neighboring communities to see if someone else could use that bike,” Silver said.
Attendees also were able to purchase a bike and accessories at the event and while a monetary donation was encouraged, it was not a requirement. A highlight for Silver was seeing a family walk away with big smiles after receiving three bikes for their children for their donation of $10.
“If someone quite honestly cannot give a donation for whatever reason, it is not a requirement,” Silver said. “So, it is really meant to be welcoming to everyone.”
This year, Silver said their highest donation for one bike was $100.
Overall, the event raised $1,125, the largest amount raised in the three years of the event, which will be split up between the Green4Good Committees at D90 to be used at their discretion for upcoming events.
The River Forest Police Department was also on site, helping residents register their bikes with the department. In total 40 bikes were registered.
Working Bikes, a full-service bike shop whose goal is to provide affordable refurbished bikes and accessories to local communities, received 65 leftover bikes from this year’s event. The business, which has been a partner of the bike exchange since the first year, also helped provide bike tubes used to repair donated bikes, getting them ready for the event.
“It was a natural fit and at the end of the event when they come to load up the bikes, it is great for us because I don’t know how we would manage what was left over, but it is also incredible for them and what they do within their nonprofit efforts as well,” Silver said.
Additionally, Silver said they were contacted by Concordia University, which donated 10 bikes, which had been left behind by students, to the event.
Silver said she was extremely happy after reflecting on the last three years and seeing the event continue to thrive. Green4Good is already looking forward to next year’s event, hoping to continue to grow the community’s involvement.
“The entire spirit of this event is about serving our community,” Silver said, adding that she enjoyed seeing bikes that were part of the exchange in past years, identified through stickers, come back through, bringing the program in full circle.