This article appeared in the December 20, 2018 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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How free bikes are lifting a Turkish city

Umit Bektas/Reuters/File
Syrian refugee children ride a bicycle in Elbeyli refugee camp near the Turkish-Syrian border in Turkey’s Kilis Province. In the city of Kilis, a free-bicycle program has altered the urban environment.

Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage. And one city in Turkey wants to make sure as many of its children can experience it as possible.

Kilis, a border city that doubled in size with an influx of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war, has given away thousands of free bikes, The Guardian reports. And its mayor would like to give away thousands more. To earn their bike, children are asked to do three things: get a relative who smokes to quit, get good grades while improving in one area they have trouble with, and promise to ride for an hour a day.

Mayor Hasan Kara has launched a number of projects aimed at creating a welcoming urban environment. Kilis has built a four-mile protected cycle lane lined with flowers, part of what the mayor hopes will become a 20-mile network of bike lanes. To watch children bike to and from school in a city where motorcycles come zooming by with three or four people aboard is to see change in action, he tells The Guardian.

And for the kids, of course, the bikes mean freedom.

“I’m very happy that I got it,” says one 9-year-old of his new mountain bike. It’s black with red trim.

Here are our five stories for today. 

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This article appeared in the December 20, 2018 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 12/20 edition