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Pedaling with a Purpose

Story by Danielle Smith
Photos by Madeline Enos

As the sun began to set, and the sweat continued to drip down her forehead, she told herself it was only a few more miles until she could rest. Rest is exactly what Madeline Enos needed after biking nearly one hundred miles in one day, but the black tar and white dashes seemed endless. Still she pedaled on with passion knowing that tomorrow she would wake up and trade in her wheels for a hammer.

For some Austinites like Enos, cycling has become more than a pastime — it’s become a passion with a purpose. Recently, many cyclists have been spurred to turn their wheels for good causes. Whether it be for housing advocacy or cancer research, these cyclists are pedaling toward change with specific goals in mind.

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For Madeline Enos, a member of the administrative staff at the department of geography at the University of Texas at Austin, cycling is an outlet for her activism. Before calling Austin home, Enos graduated with a degree in urban studies from Portland State University, and she spends a great deal in her time advocating for equal housing. “Housing advocacy isn’t a sexy issue, but I realized how important it is to educate people about what a real problem this is,” Enos says.

For this reason, Enos rode throughout the southern region of the United States during this past summer. Through an organization called Bike and Build, Enos’ trip raised money for affordable housing causes.

Bike and Build was founded in 2002 with two cycling routes and a mission to aid the affordable housing cause and foster a dedication to community service in young adults. Based out of Philadelphia, the organization has expanded to eight routes and raises an average of $160,000 per trip with an average of thirty cyclists on each team.

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Enos’ ride covered 4,220 miles over 80 days. Only 17 of those days were spent as “build days,” which meant performing manual labor with local housing advocacy agencies or giving presentations to educate and raise awareness about affordable housing. The rest of the days Enos spent biking mile after mile. Along the way, Enos and the team battled wrecks, flats, detours, weather difficulties and even a 24-hour stomach bug they refer to as the “A-puke-alypse.”

Although the trip was challenging, Enos says Bike and Build allowed her to explore the United States, form strong connections with the other individuals on her team and raise awareness about the need for affordable housing.

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Bike and Build isn’t the only program that combines cycling with raising money for a cause. The bike-friendly culture of Austin has other outlets for the community to pair their passions with the pedal.

Texas 4000, a program for UT students, is the longest annual charity bike ride in North America, and its efforts raise funds for cancer research programs. The ride itself covers over 4,500 miles from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska in 70 days.

Sophomore Rusty Hutson is currently training to ride in the summer of 2015. Hutson lost his father to pancreatic cancer in January of last year. “I wanted to make a difference and stop that from happening to other people,” Hutson says.

The program involves a nearly two year long training process that includes mandatory rides, bike safety, physical fitness and cancer education. Although Hutson was not an avid cyclist before he made the decision to participate in Texas 4000, he says that his idea of cycling has transformed from a mode of transportation to an activity that impacts others. “To me, it’s so worth it because so many people have shown support, and it’s incredible that me riding a bike can create hope for people,” Hutson says.

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Creating hope and positive social change are the goals of Bike and Build, Texas 4000 and several other similar organizations. Through the efforts of people like Enos and Hutson, communities nationwide are being made aware of the importance of advocacy while being positively affected by these passionate peddlers.

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