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Local Man Biking Cross Country and Building Homes

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Denis de Verteuil is headed back to grad school this fall to study Urban Planning at The Ohio State University, but he’s not taking the summer off. Instead, he’ll be leading a group of 30 cyclists on a two-month cross-country ride called “Bike & Build” where stops are made along the way to work on affordable housing projects with Habitat for Humanity. We recently conducted a Q&A session with Denis to find out more about this project.

Q: What got you interested in participating in Bike & Build?

A: Well, I was completing my last year at the Knowlton School of Architecture at OSU and I was looking for something different. I heard about Bike & Build from a friend, who’s roommate was doing the event. I went to their website and realized, with my love for cycling and my creative building background, that this was my adventure. I completed the trip from Boston, MA to Santa Barbara, CA in 2009 left such am impact that I decided to lead this years Northern US trip from Portsmouth, NH to Vancouver, BC.

Q: Have you participated in other types of long-trek rides or cross-country rides?

A: Not before Bike & Build. I was a bike commuter when I worked Downtown. I lived in Rome, Italy for 3 months and when I came back home I gave up my car. I cycled everywhere, but nothing compared to touring. For training, I completed two TOSRVs and joined in on a few COP rides. These were the closest I got to long/tour rides before my 2 month cross-country extravaganza.

Q: Are specific communities selected for the home building portion of the trip, and are there different needs in each of these communities where awareness is being raised?

A: It doesn’t matter if it is urban or rural, east coast or west, every community has issues with affordable housing, and we try to help as much as we can. Communities usually contact us because they know that we have lots of volunteers and grant money to give. Each build site and needs are completely different but all with the same purpose: to create affordable housing and build up community. Last year we set trusses, roofed, painted a homeless emergency shelter, build a shed, built/painted a fence, landscaped and met with local affordable housing organizations. One of the trips (Boston2SantaBarbara) has a build day with the local Columbus Habitat for Humanity on July 7th.

Q: Do you see similarities between the sustainability of human-powered transit and the community-driven mission of affordable housing?

A: I feel that accomplishing this feat by bicycle shows people our commitment of time and energy (literally) to the cause. Some people we meet think that our mission is so incredible, they go pretty far to show us the appreciation. For example, the city of Portales, NM, who’s mayor met with us to declared July, 29th Bike & Build Day. People have let us stay in their homes, and lots of people have fed us across the country.

Q: With you heading back to grad school in the fall to study Urban Planning, do you think this experience will lend itself toward your studies?

A: Of course! This trip is one of the reasons I am going back to grad school for Urban Planning. I want to help create better communities that flourish with the vitality of the local culture and help Columbus get proper public transportation, bicycle rights and pedestrian/human scale in our city. Through this trip I was able to wake up in a new city/town everyday and see how others live their lives. These experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world and I am about to get another summer’s worth.

Q: Where can people find out more and donate to the cause if they’re interested in supporting?

A: For more information about Bike & Build, or to track me across the country and see photos and my journal, visit www.bikeandbuild.org, and I also have a Facebook Support Page.

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  • de-verteuil.1

    Thanks for the support CU!

  • run214

    Funny, I have a masters in planning from OSU and I did the B&B Northern US trip in 2008.  Get ready for the most amazing summer of your life: everything from countless flat tires, to “egg bake”, to breathe taking views, to sleeping on the floor of a one stall bathroom in Theodore Roosevelt National Park with 15 other people while every tent you have outside lies collapsed.

    Good luck and congrats – it will be unforgettable.

  • RoJoNo

    Good job again, Denis! Great riding with you on Bike the C-Bus last September.

  • de-verteuil.1

    Run214- Haha halarious. I surprised i did not run into you earlier. I did B2SB’09 and now NUS’10. I had major fundraisers in Knowlton. If you are still in Columbus, we should go for a ride in the fall, also so you can give me some tips for CRP.

    RoJoNo- Bob! It was great to ride with you last fall. Hope all is well and I will see you this fall at Bike the C-Bus again!

    Thanks guys for the support!

  • jmathews5

    Denis, good luck. 
    I looked into this and wanted to do this however, they don’t take ppl over the age of 30 which totally turned me off. 

  • de-verteuil.1

    Jmathews- Sorry about the age limit, but there are many other cross-country trips you can do like, http://www.fullercenter.org/bikeadventure
    hope you keep on riding!

  • kessler

    Jmathews5 said”Denis, good luck. 
    I looked into this and wanted to do this however, they don’t take ppl over the age of 30 which totally turned me off. ”

    Don’t take ppl over 30…….Now I feel old. ;-(      Just don’t tell my metabolism.

    BTW… Go Denis! Good luck.

  • de-verteuil.1

    Haha! Thanks Kessler!

  • futureman

    We accept applications for riders that are no older than 25 as of May 1st 2010.  We accept leaders as old as 28 as of May 1st” (for 2010?)


    I will say though, at TOSRV this year several people in their 40’s to 50’s put me to shame (I’m 30). Regardless, good luck and I hope your body doesn’t give out on you!

  • Denis,

    Someone could cynically dismiss your adventure as being more about privileged thrill-seeking than about wanting to help people.

    But your trip reminds me of the attractive idea of combining following one’s social conscience with having a spirit of adventure and a zest for living.

    I didn’t read the interview but my guess is that your  trip will be your way to  gather strength and inspiration for making the world a better place.

    But whether or not that’s the case, I wonder whether it’s any of my business. To what extent do I or any of us have some claim on how someone else spends her or his time ?

    Speaking of myself and not necessarily of other environmentalists and/or social justice activist types, I’ve at times lost my sense of humor and my enjoyment of life.

    Perhaps activists can defeat our causes by taking ourselves too seriously.  But it’s a tight-rope walk : on the one hand is taking ourselves too seriously; on the other hand is dumbing down our causes as we fail to take things seriously enough.

    So, good luck Denis. I am not a mind reader, but you seem to be an example of someone trying to do good while making an adventure out of it.

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