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Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight | Hartford bike shop helps community through programs and advocacy

Bici Co. Community Bike Shop sits at the crossroads of the Downtown, South Green, and Frog Hollow neighborhoods of Hartford.

HARTFORD, Conn. — BiCi Co. Community Bike Shop is short fo for Bicicleta Y Comunidad (Bicycles for the community.) 

It sits at the crossroads of the Downtown, South Green, and Frog Hollow neighborhoods.

Tony Cherolis, shop and program manager, said the location is vital to the community because it's the only bike shop in the city and averages about 30 customers a day. 

"It's essential in low-income communities and zero car households to have access to bicycles," said Cherolis. "We're really important to how people get around in the city."

RELATED: In celebration of Connecticut's diversity, officials visit Hispanic-owned businesses in Windham

He explained that the median household income in Hartford is $36,000, and the cost of owning and operating a car is around $10,000.

"It just doesn't make sense for a lot of families in the city to have a car or have more than one car," he said.

On top of being accessible to the community, BiCi Co.'s efforts go beyond service and sell upcycled bikes, it's a community program. Its mission is to provide opportunities to improve youth and adult safety, sustainable transportation, youth programs, mechanics classes, job training, and bicycles.

"We engage a lot with the city of Hartford on complete streets and safe streets and infrastructure that's safe for all road users. Especially those walking, biking, and getting the bus stops," Cherolis said.

There's also a Bicycles for Jobs access program, where referrals come in from social workers, teachers, healthcare professionals, and so forth and the person referred gets a bike for $20.  

While BiCi Co. programs go on, its work and mission are a part of something bigger -- The Center for Latino Progress.  

Cherolis explained that the Center for Latino Progress had been around since 1978. He said it started as the Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum and transitioned to the Center for Latino progress when expanding its reach to the Hispanic community.

RELATED: Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Hartford church works to make an impact in northend community

Now the organization helps hundreds of families each year. 

"Our mission is focused on improving the socio-economic conditions of our community at large, with an emphasis on Hispanics," Program Director Kimberly Flint explained to FOX61. 

She said that's because, in Hartford, the population is over 50% Latino. This is why they offer nearly a dozen youth and adult programs for the entire family, including affordable legal immigration services. 

 "We try to make sure we are culturally responsible and adaptable to their needs and help them," explained Flint, referring to the Hispanic community. "We have staff that has an understanding of the language and the culture that they come from so that we can help them acclimate to this country and be successful." 

No matter the program or nationality, Flint said it's all about helping the community thrive.

Upcoming events

Saturday, Oct 9th – Ride a bike to Night Fall in Keney Park – Night Fall is a magical outdoor performance with giant puppets, costumes, music, dance, and the unexpected. BiCi Co. will be running the bicycle valet parking area and we’ve organized five group ride-ins. Get there early for food trucks, the pre-performance festival, and securing a good seat. All you need to bring is a blanket to sit on. CLICK HERE for more information.

Click here for a complete list of BiCi Co. Programs

Click here for a complete list of Center for Latino progress programs

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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