New Oakland bike store helps formerly incarcerated and youth build toward brighter futures

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Friday, October 27, 2023
New Oakland bike store helps formerly incarcerated and youth
The new West Oakland Bikes 4 Life store helps the formerly incarcerated and local youth build toward brighter futures.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Bikes 4 Life in West Oakland isn't a traditional bike store. They don't sell bikes -- they give them away.

"When formerly incarcerated people, who are coming home, between a Clipper card and a bicycle, they should be able to get to anywhere in the Bay Area they need to go for jobs, opportunities, services," said George Galvis, the executive director of CURYJ, or Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice.

It also runs the newly opened bike shop.

"Providing opportunities for formerly incarnated people is critical in terms of reducing recidivism, promoting public safety, and they are the best messengers and mentors, who have been there and done that," Galvis said.

MORE: SF marathon a defiant step for former San Quentin inmates participating at event

Inspired by biking advocate and community activist Tony Colemen, who died last year, Bikes 4 Life also hires those who were formerly incarnated -- like Jesus Coba.

"They have all these goals, because their time stood still for a little bit. They want to make sure, when they hit the ground, they hit the ground running. They don't want to stand still. They don't want to be forgotten about. They want to be part of society. No one is perfect, but opportunities always helps. And that's what we are here to do," Coba said.

Coba is also one of the designers of their T-shirts that are sold in the retail shop at Bikes 4 Life, made up of images that are symbolic of his Latino heritage and San Francisco roots.

"(Shirts) that just shows, like, cultural pride. One says 'Sunkissed.' Basically, brown is beautiful, kissed by the sun," Coba said.

MORE: South Bay's reentry program aims to help formerly incarcerated build a business

As the shop grows, so too will the job opportunities. The Bikes 4 Life already launched a food pantry, led by Michael Little Bear, program manager for HEAL, or Healthy Eating, Active Living. He also runs the bike shop. And, he also once served time behind bars.

"This program will help get back on their feet. It will show them dignity, and show them that somebody does care out there for them," he said.

The store is open. But the bike shop portion will really kick off in a few weeks, when it will be also open up to young people who can come by to repair or build a bike that they can also take home. And, Galvis says, hopefully with some focus on the road ahead.

"That is part of our model -- hiring people who have lived experience, who can support young people, guide them making life-affirming decisions, who are credible messengers, who have overcome the challenges young people are confronted with," Galvis saod.

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