Some of the best cyclists in the country are in Wilmington this weekend for the 13th annual Grand Prix. In addition to the professional races, the festivities include a celebration of the Urban Bike Project.
The Urban Bike project runs out of a building that once housed the Wilmington Mounted Police unit along Walnut street on the outskirts of downtown. The group’s mission is to help provide free or low costs bikes to young people and adults in need. Last year, they served more than 1,000 adults and 200 children. Executive director Laura Wilburn says the program is especially helpful for who don’t have access to reliable transportation to get to a job.
“It widens the sphere of opportunity for them, they can look at jobs further afield or jobs that aren’t open (using) a bus line. it’s an opportunity for them to work up to a point where maybe they can afford a car if they want one. So it can be a game changer.”
Wilburn says the group’s whole goal is to help with their transportation needs and they rely on the community to make it happen. “We take donations of used bikes, we bring them back to life, get them to folks who can use them. we have used bikes for sale, we also give bikes away to those in need,” she said.
The group recently secured a 30-year lease from the city of Wilmington for their building at a cost of just $1 per year. That deal enabled the group to raise nearly $500,000 needed to overhaul their building.
The work was done by at-risk young adults ages 18-24 in the Challenge Program where they learn construction and other job skills while helping improve their community. “They help them get a GED, they talk about some of the soft skills of just showing up on time and that sort of thing,” Wilburn said.
The group has raised about 95% of the money needed for the project. “We’ve used that money to fix the place up, put a new roof on, do some structural repairs,” she said. The facility was originally built in 1907 and once housed the Wilmington Police mounted unit.