This holiday season, formerly homeless youth from Boyle Heights will have a new means of transportation with help from a teenage Eagle Scout candidate.
Diego Binatena, a 17-year old a scout from Playa del Rey, collaborated with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) to donate 20 electric pedal-assist bicycles to Jovenes Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on homelessness and at-risk youth and PATH La Kretz Villas, another transitional housing agency in East Hollywood.
Binatena’s determination in landing an Eagle Scout badge, the black belt of Boy Scout, sparked his interest in completing a community project. When Binatena learned the LACBC, a bicycling advocacy group, had unassembled bikes sitting in a warehouse, he created “Cycle Forward BIKESHARE,” a project to help homeless youth and men get around independently to jobs, interviews, schools and medical appointments.
“Transportation is one of the biggest challenges for our youth,” says Development Director Eric Hubbard who welcomed the project’s ribbon cutting ceremony earlier this month.
“It was a really great thing to see everyone riding around the campus and really smiling. It made them forget about things that they’ve been through. I just think they deserve these kinds of things: like access to bikes and to be able to have a good time and get around.”
Binatena, a Scout since first grade, a bicycle commuter and national-level competitive racing cyclist, contacted multiple organizations within his own cycling community, searching for additional funds to get the bikes assembled and ready for residents at Jovenes and PATH.
The bikes are now equipped with safety lights, messenger bags, u-locks and safe-cycling materials.
“I was happy that we’re going to have bikes to use,” said 20-year-old Jovenes resident Marlon Sibrian. “The guys here are excited and happy and they just want to try them out already.”
Jovenes’ bike sharing program is scheduled to launch in January. They hope to soon establish group rides within the campus and collaborate with other cycling communities.
LACBC will visit Jovenes in January to teach about safety guidelines regarding electric bicycles.