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Photo from Geneva Gondak

While many graduating seniors will be spending the summer at a new job or vacationing, current College senior Geneva Gondak is planning something different: a bike trip across the country to raise awareness and money for affordable housing.

Gondak is starting the 75-day-long trip just two weeks after graduation with the Philadelphia nonprofit Bike & Build, which organizes five annual cycling trips for 18 to 29-year-olds to help address America’s affordable housing issues. Three of the annual trips, including the one Gondak is taking part in, take riders across the country, while the other two are regionally focused. 

“A few months ago, I was considering road tripping across the country,” she said. “But then I realized that biking across the country — I thought that was 80 times as cool.”

Gondak will be biking an average of 70 miles per day over the trip from Richmond, Va. to Seaside, Ore., stopping every three to five days to help build affordable housing in locations such as Charlottesville, Va., Carbondale, Ill., and Portland, Ore. with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. In addition to these housing projects, riders will be seeing some of the country’s most iconic landmarks.

“I’m really excited that my route goes through Yellowstone National Park and part of Grand Teton,” Gondak said. “As someone who is currently at a national outdoor recreation conference, I’m really excited about seeing the national parks.”

Each rider has to raise $5,000 before the trip for a grant project Bike & Build does with its riders. Gondak is currently in the process of doing that.

“Affordable housing nonprofits across the country can apply for grants and our teams actually gets to sit down and choose where their grant money is going,” Bike & Build’s Outreach Director Lily Goldberg said.

Photo from Geneva Gondak

Gondak, who grew up in the Bay Area of California, said she has been biking her entire life, but has also witnessed, firsthand, many of the problems that could be addressed by affordable housing initiatives like Bike & Build.

“Right now, affordable housing is a huge issue in the Bay Area,” she said. “People are really getting priced out and can’t afford to live in homes they’ve lived in for years.”

Gondak also pointed out that the lack of affordable housing in some areas makes daily commutes to work for many Bay Area residents longer. This, in turn, causes more hours spent in a car, and more emissions per person.

The trip appealed to Gondak, she said, not only as someone who has spent her life biking recreationally and as someone interested in affordable housing, but also because of these environmental considerations.

According to Goldberg, many of Bike & Build’s applicants come from backgrounds where they don’t need to be actively aware of affordable housing issues, and that the program, in part, aims to educate its participants and those they come into contact with across the country about housing.

“A lot of people come into Bike & Build doing it for the adventure and for the cycling aspect of it, and they leave having a really good understanding of what the crisis is across the country, and as advocates for affordable housing,” she said. “Stopping in towns, talking to people about what we’re doing — it’s a very intimate way of getting the message out.”