Knowing how difficult it can be for the homeless to get around, Sedona-based bicycling advocate and bicycle tour guide Heather Parris donated seven bikes to Angie’s House, a Cottonwood-based nonprofit that provides transitional housing for those impacted by homelessness, addiction and mental illness.
On Jan. 18, Parris met with Angie’s House founder Angela Lonzano, delivering five immediately rideable bikes and two that needed minor repairs. In addition, she handed over parts and bike helmets donated by a bicycling and gear shop in Cottonwood and mountain bike business in Sedona.
“It was really lovely,” Parris said. “Now these people who don’t have transportation can get to a job, a job interview or just have fun riding around.”
According to Parris, the idea began after a discussion with Lonzano — also a board member of the Northern Arizona Business Organization — that cemented a question in her mind: How do the homeless and other populations marginalized by circumstance, addiction and mental illness progress without ways to get around?
Parris posted a tentative query via Facebook, asking who among her friends might be willing to donate a bike to those less fortunate. The response, she said, was more than she had expected.
Though Parris received a few clunkers, most of the bikes needed few repairs to get them working.
Parris admitted that it had been more than just concern that inspired her to make the effort. The winter, and the resulting inactivity, had gotten to her.
“To be honest, business was pretty slow for me,” Parris said, laughing. “I wasn’t making any money at the time and I figured, ‘Why not do something for someone else?’”
The thought to do something similar in Sedona, Parris added, has been on her mind. Parris has a history of advocating for bicycle safety and bicyclists’ rights in the city, mostly through her bicycle day camp at Posse Grounds Park in Sedona.
Last summer, Parris conducted three day camps, gaining a significant following among parents and kids. This summer, Sedona Parks and Recreation has endorsed her endeavor, sponsoring her use of the park. According to Parris, her three courses are being offered top billing to meet demand.
“I had quite a good following last year,” Parris said, adding that many parents sent their children to more than one workshop. “It was way, way more rewarding than I expected.”
The rules of the road for bicyclists — and the rights that come with riding a bicycle — are often poorly understood, Parris said, making it difficult for newer riders especially to assert themselves on the road and maintain safe practices.
“Education is the key to success,” Parris said, but added that Sedona and other communities in the Verde Valley have a ways to go toward making their roads safer for bicyclists.