11 November 2015

A Road To Recovery Begins With VetBikes

Here in the US, today is Veterans' Day.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you might have noticed a seeming contradiction:  although I am anti-war, I have written a number of posts about how bicycles have been used in the military. The real irony is that I have become more interested in such things as my opposition to armed conflict (in 99.9 percent of cases) increases.

As I have said before, studying military history in its truest sense (not what is commonly derided as "drum and bugle history") offers all sorts of lessons into other areas of history--and life. It shows us, very clearly, the sorts of mistakes leaders can make through their own egotism or arrogance, or through pure-and-simple misjudgment or miscalculation.  It also shows us, I believe, human nature in its most naked forms.

Now I'm going to present you with another seeming contradiction about myself:  the more I adopt an anti-war stance, the more pro-veteran I become.

Actually, my explanation for that will probably make sense (I think):  It is because I am opposed to war that I believe anyone who is sent to fight should never want for anything.  It's a disgrace that someone who has put on a uniform and faced danger should be sleeping under a bridge or railroad overpass.  I have seen a few on my way to and from work.   

Thus, I am willing to put in a good word for any organization that might help improve the lives of veterans.  Today, I learned about one such organization.

VetBikes.org is a veteran-run non-profit (501c3) that provides adaptive bicycles to recovering veterans.  VetBikes began in Seattle, but has recently opened a second location in Denver.   

Some of the machines VetBikes has provided were tailored to obvious physical disabilities such as the loss of limbs,  but most look like bikes most of us would ride, with small modifications.  According to VetBikes' website, its mission is to use bicycles, and cycling (mainly of the sport variety), to help veterans cope with their new lives.

To that end, VetBikes takes referrals from social workers, medical doctors and other profssionals for veterans suffering from combat wounds, substance abuse problems, homelessness and even blindness.  However, by far the largest number of referrals is for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

With those realities in mind, VetBikes does not merely lend bikes or have them available for the vets to take out:  It gives each vet a machine.  But  VB's program doesn't stop there:  It also offers mentors, placement in local cycle clubs (to help with community integration), professional mechanical instruction and, according to its mission statement, "an introductory path to a career in the cycling industry". 

The site doesn't mention anything about expanding beyond Washington State and Colorado, but it would not surprise me if someone in the organization has that in mind:  The need certainly doesn't stop at the borders of the Evergreen and Centennial States.  It does, however, say that it can use help, whether as a volunteer, or through donations of cash, bike parts or bikes. 


  1. Of course, I can't speak with any kind of authority on the kinds of problems a returning war veteran might face, and issues with PTSD, etc. - but I can't imagine a better, more positive way to get treatment and therapy than with a bicycle -- whether riding them, maintaining them, or both.

  2. Brooks--I couldn't have said it any better.