All over the world, people use bicycles for many things. Last January, Seattle blog Bikejuju wrote about goods sold from bikes in Hanoi, Vietnam. In San Andrés Itzapa, Guatemala, a group called Maya Pedal builds bicimaquinas (bike machines) that allow villagers to use pedal power for their energy needs.

One of the most important things a bicycle can build is community, as anyone who has spent time at a place like Bike Works in Columbia City can tell you. Just by riding a bicycle, you learn more about the place you live. The way we get around our neighborhoods has a lot to do with how safe we feel, who we see regularly; basically, our sense of place. And yet how many people in Seattle feel safe biking on their neighborhood streets? Some neighborhoods need help re-building that positive sense of place, and believe it or not, bicycling can help.

Bike Equity Programs

There’s no right and wrong way to be a bicyclist, but there are common images of bicycling in the U.S. that might make it seem exclusive. For many years, there’s been a movement of bicyclists setting up do-it-yourself repair collectives grounded in social and economic justice. These co-ops can be important community centers and useful resources for education and affordable bike repair. Here is a directory of bike collectives.

I asked my network of scholar-activists who study bike cultures to send me information about programs working specifically to build communities around equity through bicycling, and here’s what we came up with for the U.S. If you see something missing, feel free to send your suggestions to adonia at urbanadonia dot com.

Cycles of Change in Oakland

Multicultural Communities for Mobility in Los Angeles

Community Cycling Center in Portland

Gearing Up in Philadelphia

Biking Public Project in New York City

Cycles for Change in Minneapolis

Carfree Events

What if you had a few hours to try riding a bike with your children or grandkids, not away from home on a recreational trail, but right outside your front door? Lots of people have spent time at Bicycle Sundays down on Lake Washington Boulevard, but what about being able to bike to church, or walking to a nearby farmer’s market, traveling on a street filled not with cars but with people?

Carfree street events take the fun of a street fair and add to it by giving city residents a chance to explore their neighborhoods on foot or on bikes, sometimes for the first time. In places where neighbors live in fear of violence, carfree street events are a great way to take back the street for families.

Here are a few examples of cities that have made an effort to use bicycling as a way to improve community spaces:

Bogotá, Colombia

Los Angeles, California

Many other cities now offer ciclovías as opportunities to bike and walk in city streets usually dominated by car traffic. New York’s Summer Streets, San Francisco’s Sunday Streets, and Portland’s Sunday Parkways are all thriving events that are based on the ciclovía model. Cities across Latin America have successful ciclovías as well, including Mexico City’s Paseo Dominical and Quito, Ecuador’s Ciclopaseo. In Indonesia, according to the Jakarta Globe, Jakarta started having carfree events every Sunday in May 2012.