Pedal It Forward finds biking needs are growing in NWA

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,556 views 

Matt Crafton (left) and Don Butcher look over bikes at Pedal it Forward's Rogers collection facility.

As they come into the final stretch of a two month campaign of collections, a group of Northwest Arkansas bike enthusiasts and a bank hope their efforts create a new cycle of sorts.

Pedal It Forward teamed up with First Security Bank in June and July to collect bikes and bike parts for its mission – to encourage and provide more bicycles for area residents who can’t afford the self-propelled mode of transportation.

“You think about bikes and a lot of people automatically think about them for recreation and fitness, and that’s certainly true. We’re also transitioning to having bikes as a source of transportation, particularly for people who need to get to a job or school and having that bike as a means of mobility,” said Matt Crafton, chairman and CEO of engineering and design firm Crafton Tull. He’s also one of the founders and board members of Pedal it Forward.

Pedal it Forward is a 501(c)3 organization that was created in 2014 when Crafton and fellow cyclists decided to collect bikes for kids at Christmas. After putting out the word, it was obvious that the need and the responsiveness from the community were a match.

“We grew it from just a small idea of a few people getting together to now where we have two complete shops with a program manager overseeing it all,” Crafton said.

Don Butcher is the program manager of Pedal it Forward. With two collection facilities – one in Bentonville and one in Rogers – he said the mission of the organization has expanded to helping a variety of those with transportation needs as well as a region of the state struggling with infrastructure.

“It helps in multiple ways mentally and for your health, and it can save you a lot of money in gas and maintenance of cars. The cities can benefit from the infrastructure change because of the growth in Northwest Arkansas,” he said. “It helps change the mindset of how we should move around in our community.”

While children and their families who can’t afford a nice bicycle benefit from Pedal it Forward, there are others who have life or death health and economic needs, the organization has found. Veterans can ride bikes to doctors’ appointments and it can be the means for getting to work for others who can’t afford a car.

Mike Power (left) and Joab Nazario with First Security Bank discuss bike repairs.

Pedal it Forward takes individual requests, but it works through organizations such as the VA, children’s shelters, schools, community activity centers, and groups helping parolees re-enter the workforce. First Security Bank teamed up with the non-profit for a June and July drive to allow bike drop-offs at bank locations in Benton and Washington counties.

“The demand is far outstripping the supply,” said Mike Power, COO of First Security Bank’s Benton County market. A bike rider himself in FAST (Friends of Arkansas Single Track), Power wants to see the program continue to grow.

“We want to use the tools we have to promote what this organization is all about. With us being a community bank and getting involved in the communities we serve, this was just another way to serve,” he said.

This year, Pedal it Forward has manned its two shops with enough volunteers to provide close to 1,200 bikes. It also strips bikes too damaged to repair for their parts. The repair shops are located at 3902 NW Wishing Spring Road in Bentonville or 315 W. Olive Street in Rogers.

“We’re focused on the bike drive piece, but we’re also focused on helping them get donations like new helmets and then volunteers. They need people, they need help,” said Joab Nazario, community banker with First Security Bank in downtown Bentonville. Nazario is also an avid mountain biker.

Annette King, vice-president for marketing at First Security Bank, said she hopes her bank’s high profile summer bike drive for Pedal it Forward will encourage other businesses to come along for the ride.

“Hopefully by us getting involved more people will get involved in Pedal it Forward and have more drives like what First Security Bank is doing,” she said. “In reality, it’s changing lives. People are able to ride to their clinic appointments for the VA. They can get to work easier. Families can now live life together, doing things together, so they’re bonding more.”