Biking for a Better Knoxville

About 20 years ago, the air quality in Knoxville, Tennessee, was ranked among the worst in the nation, according to the American Lung Association’s Annual “State of the Air”. This report drove both the community and government to make changes. Though most changes were directed at industry polluters, many individuals are now looking for smaller ways to help improve our climate, as Knoxville slowly improves its air quality.

Two Bikes is a non-profit bike shop dedicated to expanding access to the social, environmental, and personal benefits of bicycling. Two Bikes is dedicated and focused on expanding access to bicycles in Knoxville. They achieve this by providing access to affordable bicycles, free community workbenches, hosting donation-based bicycle education classes, and by pegging to give away half of their bikes for free.

Two Bikes’ principal mission is to provide affordable bicycles and repairs to people without means; for every bicycle purchased in the shop, Two Bikes gives away another to a community member in need.

“We’ve noticed that people who need bike service the most don’t have the capacity to travel here so we’re going to reach out to them,” said Mitchell Connell, executive director at Two Bikes.

Apart from serving the Knoxville community, Two Bikes employees have noticed the positive impact that comes with people using their bicycles to commute to work or school in the morning.“ I come from an environmental background, so the impact of bicycling on air quality is very much a recognized benefit of the work we do in Knoxville,” Connell said.

After some difficult times in Knoxville achieved the city’s best-ever report card, earning all passing grades under the ozone standards and dropping all the way down to the 104th most polluted city.

“I believe strongly in the environmental benefits of riding a bicycle, and I hope that Two Bikes can make a significant difference in the air quality of our city,” Connell said.

The company has an annual model bike store, hosting events like dinners, and community bike rides, intended to put the focus on safer neighborhoods for cycling. Two Bikes also recycles old bicycles, preventing them from ending up in landfills.

One group of the University of Tennessee students is partnering with Two Bikes to raise money for their Mobile Bike Program, where employees visit low-income neighborhoods to provide free bike repairs.

“I bike every day to UT’s campus because it’s a good way to start your day and also I feel like I’m helping the environment a little, makes me feel good, and also that I am trying to make a difference in the world,” said Emily Wolfson, a student from the Haslam College of Business.

“I have biked to campus all four years that I have been in UT, I think freshman year was a little scary to bike on Cumberland just because Knoxville is not really a bikeable city, and everyone just seems to be rushing all the time, so you definitely have to be super careful and be able to be aware of your surroundings,” said Manuel Hernandez, a student from the civil engineering program. “I definitely recommend biking primarily because you don’t have to worry about parking, parking tickets, and also you are helping the environment without even noticing.”

The company also held a fundraising dinner for the same cause. “We want to be able to serve those communities that need a way to commute to their jobs, so this program is the best way to do so we hope that the Mobile Bike Repair Program will be on the go in 2022,” Connell said.

Two Bikes held their 3rd Annual Cranksgiving Saturday, Nov. 20 “Cranksgiving, it’s a nationwide, family-friendly fun ride that is a combination scavenger hunt and food drive! Get a team together and ride around the city collecting food to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee,” said Connell.

Two Bikes also hosted their first Critical Mass ride in about a decade the past Oct. 12, they were hesitant whether people were going to show up or not to this kind of event knowing that also we are still living through a pandemic, but the Knoxville community did show up, “everyone who came out and showed Knoxville that bikes belong on the streets,” said Connell

Apart from these three very important events, Two Bikes hosted their last Ramble Ride for the year which consists of a 10-20 mile ride that focuses on the roads: alleys, paths, powerline cuts, and all the less traveled by bike in Knoxville.

Two Bikes keeps the community involved and connected through their social media accounts, letting them know that there will be a small gathering a certain week, offering their followers the opportunity to connect with other people, grab a drink, hang out or wrench on your bike on their community work stations.

Two Bikes is one of a kind non-profit organization, making sure to help educate the biking community, help those in need, and also take care of the environment.

“I have been wanting to join a bike club in Knoxville since the first day that I got here but never actually made the time to look for one,” Wolfson said. “Now that I know about Two Bikes there is no reason for me not to join, and make some friends, and bike in this beautiful community.”

The end goal is to make Knoxville a bike-friendly city for all.

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