Donated Bikes Pave the Way to Jobs in Tucson

Cars, bikes and buses – oh my! Transportation is a common challenge for newly-arrived refugees, but you might find some inspiration from Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Tucson (LSS-SW) and their strategy for using donated bikes to help clients get to work.

LSS-SW provides 1-2 bicycles per client household with employable adults, thanks to partnerships with Wheels for Kids and local Boy Scout drives. Both partnering organizations have provided donated, refurbished adult and child bikes.

“We’ve seen clients who are able to work that might not have otherwise been able to.” Since several of Tucson’s bus lines have limited hours of operation, “many of our clients working at hotels have to find another way to get home,” says Kyle Dignoti, LSS-SW Resource and Pre-arrival Coordinator. “Having the opportunity to use a bike has really impacted their mobility.”

Bikes are never given to clients without appropriate safety equipment, including a helmet, rope lock, and brake lights. Safety information is reviewed one-on- one with each recipient, and bicycle safety classes are available through Pima County.

Once a client has a bike, maintenance can be a challenge, but BICAS (Bicycle Inter Community Art and Salvage) in Tucson helps overcome that hurdle by training clients how to fix their bicycles. Clients are able to keep their bikes running and know how to perform basic fixes on their own.

If you have a car or bike donation program in place, we’d love to hear about at it at Haven’t found a community partner to help develop these resources yet? Start by googling terms like “donated bikes” or “bike classes” and see who is in your area – you might be surprised how easy it is to find great local partners!



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9 Creative Ways to Address Transportation Barriers

Caritas and Yellow Bike Project at

Photo Credit: Caritas of Austin

No Magic Bullet for Transportation Barriers

There’s no printable word to capture your reaction when you spot a great job but can’t take advantage of it because there’s no public transportation, right?

There is no easy solution, but Higher has collected a list of 9 ideas that might help you out.

If you have tried other solutions – or have experience with one of these – please let us know at

1. Investigate ZipCar or CarToGo. If they are available in your city, it might be an option, especially for a group of clients to carpool to partially offset the cost. Could it work for an enterprising refugee without their own wheels to make a little money transporting clients to work and on errands using this service?

2. Consider Lyft or Uber. Check out a previous blog post for options and a power point you can use to inform clients.  Think about a carpool, volunteer driver or a parttime job option for the right client.

3. Take a taxi. Sometimes, shift work involves a one way commute at a time when public transportation isn’t available. For example, a typical CNA schedule often includes one weekend night shift, finishing when bus service has stopped.   Help clients understand that earning money and gaining experience is worth the occasional expense of a taxi. Run the numbers with them to explore if this option could work.

4. Get a bicycle. This option can work especially well to augment public transportation that stops short, but not too far of a work site. Walmart sells cheap, reliable bikes. Some cities (Chatanooga, Seattle, Austin, New York, Washington, DC) have bike share programs. caritas snipMany cities now have build-a-bike programs where sweat equity can earn you support to get your own bike.  Here’s a great example of Caritas of Austin, TX partnership with the Yellow Bike Project that donates bikes for clients.

5. Quickly find a Co-worker willing to help out. Often, one end of a manufacturing shift starts or finishes when a bus isn’t available. With large numbers of coworkers finishing at the same time, it should be possible to find a ride to the nearest bus stop or even closer to home in just a couple of days. Encourage clients to give it a try. Consider sending a volunteer to provide transportation and help them ask around as people are leaving. Establish a time limit up front.

6. Line up Volunteers. While this option may not be sustainable in the long term, there are plenty of examples where volunteers operate carpools to help clients get to good jobs that are too far for any other solution.

7. Partner with an ethnic community association. In one example, a refugee pastor coordinated van rental and ride shares so a large number of her parishioners could work at a chicken plant and avoid relocation. The resettlement agency worried about sustainability and liability, but this strategy is still working more than 5 years later.

8. Ask for Employer-sponsored transportation. It rarely happens, but it can be a great win-win if an employer sees the value in providing transportation from a central location or the closest bus stop. It works best for large numbers of employees working the same shift. If an employer has a difficult time hiring or retaining reliable staff, they could be persuaded to consider the idea, at least.

9. Look for a Public Transportation Carpool Program. Some cities have vans that can be made available to groups of employees who can carpool to work. It often requires the driver to have an established US driving record and is often associated with a waiting period and a burdensome sign-up process.

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