Bike New Yorker #41: Karen Overton


Karen Overton is, simply put, an NYC bicycle rock star. Bike New York is over the moon to be joining forces with Karen and Recycle-A-Bicycle, her legendary community organization that uses the bicycle to foster youth development, environmental education, community engagement, and healthy living.


Karen is a pioneer in the field of bicycle advocacy in New York City. As a college student in urban planning, she was passionate about the environment and traveled everywhere by bike, but felt marginalized in a streetscape that prioritized car traffic. This experience led her to study bicycle transportation, and eventually to her first bike job as a planner and sociologist in Mozambique (she speaks Portuguese) for Bikes for Africa, a project of the Institute for Transportation Development and Policy. When she returned to the states, she knew that New York City was the place to be to pursue bicycle advocacy professionally.


While working for Transportation Alternatives in 1994, she founded Recycle-A-Bicycle as a way to help alleviate the strain discarded bikes put on the Sanitation Department, and to provide after-school programming and job training for the city’s youth. Fast forward to today, and Recycle-A-Bicycle has grown to include a number of landmark programs (like Earn-A-Bike, the Youth Bike Summit, Bike to School, Cycle Craft, and Bike Bonanzas), strong city and national partnerships, and two beloved community bike shops.


In an effort to bring bike classes and programs to more kids and adults in New York City, it made sense for long-time partners Recycle-A-Bicycle and Bike New York to team up. “You couldn’t design a more perfect complement to Bike New York than Recycle-A-Bicycle, which comes with a legacy of impactful education initiatives, dedicated volunteers and partners, and successful, community-focused retail locations. We’ve also been increasing our focus on sustainability, and the addition of RAB will enhance these efforts in a big way,” said Ken Podziba, President & CEO of Bike New York. “Together, we’re taking what was already the largest free bike education program in the country to the next level.”


Karen is also buzzing about the possibilities of the union. “As we begin to meld operations, I realize there is so much more synergy than I previously imagined. It’s an exciting time for us,” she said. Press play above to meet Karen and learn more about Recycle-A-Bicycle.