To the rescue

Utica Bike Rescue offers less-fortunate way to travel, stay healthy

By David L. Podos

Utica Bike Rescue is a nonprofit organization that literally lives up to its name.

It does not simply give free bikes to people, but it provides a solution to mobility challenges by offering a hand-up, not a handout.

Utica Bike Rescue is located at Westminster Moriah Olivet Presbyterian Church, 714 Washington St., Utica.

It recently opened its Clinton Soul Stop Workshop at 8 College St., Clinton, featuring a fitness studio, yoga classes and a bicycle maintenance shop.

The mission of Utica Bike Rescue is to promote bicycling as an affordable, effective, sustainable form of transportation and as a cornerstone of a cleaner, healthier, and safer society. Utica Bike Rescue provides refurbished, usually donated bicycles and educational programs to the community, especially for children, students and lower-income households.

Executive director Matt VanSlyke said one of the most important benefits his organization provides is affordable transportation to local people. “There is a large percentage of households in our area that do not have a car, making it difficult for many people. Having a bike provides transportation for them,” he said.

“We also teach responsibility to the people receiving the bikes as they learn the mechanics for the upkeep of their bicycle. Experience has also shown us that it’s necessary to create a sense of ownership and teach the appropriate skills to ride and maintain a bike if you want to provide real, lasting value,” he added. “Our programs will do just that.”

Besides offering a mode of transportation, there are many health benefits to cycling as well.

According to, cycling offers a number of health benefits, both physical as well as mental.

Cycling involves almost every part of the body beyond using the calf and thigh muscles. Arms are toned and strengthened as well, for they are needed to balance the bike.

Cardiovascular health is drastically improved, while cycling improves endurance and increases energy levels. Cycling has been shown to help in reducing stress and weight management. It also helps reduce and prevent arthritis.

Cycling is environmentally friendly, reducing pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases.

VanSlyke has been involved in bike rescue efforts since he lived in Albany.

He is a professional transportation planner, an experienced bicycle mechanic, an avid cyclist and former president of the New York Bicycling Coalition, a 501(c)3 organization.

“There are many bike rescue organizations in New York state, including locations in Ithaca, Schenectady, Syracuse and Buffalo. “We all follow similar models and share resources,” Van Slyke said.

Utica Bike Rescue establishes partnerships with local organizations that can help identify and pre-qualify individuals for their programs. The bikes that have been donated by the public and refurbished by their staff and volunteers are redistributed in the community through outreach programs.

Those interested in getting involved as a volunteer or donating a bike can contact Utica Bike Rescue at 315-525-9554, visit or email