Delivering Warmth and Food by Bike With the Pedaling Relief Project
  • The Pedaling Relief Project, which has delivered a humongous 420,000 pounds of food and goods since 2020, is cranking up for a busy winter--with lots of volunteer opportunities to ride your bike to rescue perishable foods, stock community food pantries, share warm clothes, and distribute items to stave off the cold.
  • “The Pedaling Relief Project exemplifies how Cascade Bicycle Club is working to use bicycles to solve community challenges and have a greater positive impact,” says Executive Director Lee Lambert.

It’s a heartwarming holiday statistic: 420,000 pounds of food, school supplies, and essential goods delivered by bike as part of Cascade’s Pedaling Relief Project.

Created in 2020, and adopted and expanded by Cascade this year, the Pedaling Relief Project shows the power of bicycles and volunteer riders to fight food insecurity, eliminate polluting car trips, and support crucial community services that improve equity and sustainability.

Now, the Pedaling Relief Project is cranking up for a busy winter season--with lots of volunteer opportunities for Cascade members, supporters, and people with bikes to rescue perishable foods from supermarkets, restock community food pantries, help community food banks during a time of need, and distribute warm clothes and items to stave off the winter chill.

“We create opportunities that empower volunteers to get outside for healthy bike rides and  exercise while also learning about organizations that support our neighbors who are most in need,” says Maxwell Burton, Cascade’s Pedaling Relief Project and volunteer community engagement manager. “It’s bicycling with a big heart, and a chance to give back while giving thanks.”

Rescuing Food and Providing Winter Warmth

Volunteer riders had a busy Thanksgiving week as the Pedaling Relief Project delivered Thanksgiving meals and restocked little free pantries and community refrigerators in the Wallingford, Fremont, Ravenna, Maple Leaf, University District, Roosevelt, Licton Springs, Northgate, and Greenwood neighborhoods. For the second straight year, we also helped deliver registration packets for the Turkey Trot, a charity run that raises money for the University District Food Bank. Delivering the packets by bike saved thousands of dollars in mailing costs and allowed the Montlake Community Club, which organizes the run, to donate an extra $2,500 to the food bank.

Riders were also kept busy rescuing perishable food from supermarkets, which have large amounts of food to donate following Thanksgiving. “We don’t want any of this food to go into the garbage or compost,” Burton says. 

Burton is now working on dates for volunteer rides to stock community free pantries with warm clothing, socks, hats, hand warmers, and foot warmers, to ensure people living outside or who can’t afford these items can remain warm on the most frigid winter days. During last summer’s scorching heat waves, Pedaling Relief Project volunteers distributed water to community pantries to ensure people outside could remain hydrated. 

“We want to make sure no one is cold and hungry through the winter months,” Burton says.

Easier and More Intuitive Volunteer Sign Up

To streamline the volunteer sign-up process, Burton has been upgrading the volunteer portal on the Pedaling Relief Project Volunteer Opportunities page. The new and improved page allows people to more easily see what rides need more volunteer riders.

“In the past, we would sometimes have too many volunteers one week and not enough the next week,” Burton says. “Our new page makes it easy for volunteers to see where they are needed most.”

The redesigned page has a map showing locations for volunteer ride opportunities.

The redesigned page has visual cues that show where and when volunteer riders are needed, and it provides route maps with mileage for various routes, as well as how many bags of groceries or goods people may need to carry. Volunteers can now quickly check and see if there are routes near their homes that need more riders. “Our new page is more visual and lets people know if they will need a bike trailer, or if they can handle the deliveries with their panniers or cargo bike,” Burton says.

Once people sign up, they get a text message reminder with a link to a mobile-friendly webpage. “We want to make it easy for people with an hour or two of free time for a bike ride to easily sign up, while streamlining and improving the efficiency and impact of our work,” Burton says.

We have a fleet of Burley bike trailers for use by volunteers.

In the future, Cascade will create a new, mobile friendly, and intuitive volunteer portal that allows people to sign up for projects, rides, and other opportunities across our education, advocacy, and events programs. The goal is to launch this volunteer portal in the spring of 2022. 

Ultimately, the goal is to have an online platform and app with resources that will enable community organizations in other cities and towns across Washington to partner with Cascade and create their own local Pedaling Relief Project rides to assist food banks and solve community needs. “We’d like to partner with the University of Washington to do the software coding and help us create a visually appealing smartphone app that could be a capstone project for a graduate student or class,” Burton says.

210 Tons and Thousands of Volunteer Rides

Started in the early days of the pandemic in 2020, the Pedaling Relief Project has grown from a small grassroots effort into one of Cascade’s signature programs. The numbers are impressive:

  • 215,000 pounds of food and goods delivered thus far in 2021.

  • 420,000 pounds delivered over two years.

  • More than 3,400 individual volunteer rides.

  • More than 600 total volunteers, with about 420 active over the past six months.

  • 5.25 tons (10,500 pounds) of carbon dioxide saved from the atmosphere, and 1,750 car trips avoided (assuming a car takes 250 pounds of food).

“The Pedaling Relief Project exemplifies how Cascade Bicycle Club is working to use bicycles to solve community challenges and have a greater positive impact,” says Executive Director Lee Lambert. “We are best known for our big cycling events and major rides, but the Pedaling Relief Project and our efforts to use bicycles as machines for good is something all of our members, volunteers, staff and supporters can be proud of.”

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Paul Tolmé