CHAPEL HILL – Six UNC students along with young people from across the county are biking 4,000 miles this summer. They’re making stops along the way to raise awareness for affordable housing. It’s a program called Bike and Build and their first stop was in Chapel Hill.

Route leader Ryan Smith is one of the 28 cyclists. They have about 14 build sites set during their journey from Nags Head, North Carolina, to San Diego, California.

“It really does make a huge impact on people’s lives—especially the lives of the families we are helping out,” Smith said.

The group rolled into town this week, working at several sites across Orange County with Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s been really cool to stop in Chapel Hill where I got to school and with a program that I’ve been working with,” Smith said.

They’re also working with the organization, A Brush With Kindness, to repair and renovate homes for low-income families.

Jannie Bradshaw, who lives off Phoenix Drive in Chapel Hill, watched Thursday as the riders repaired her porch.


Bradshaw watching the workers

“I’m actually really excited. They are ready and willing to work. They are putting their hearts into it.” Bradshaw said. “It made me feel really good because I knew something better was coming.”

Due to Chapel Hill’s growth in recent years, affordable housing options have disappeared. That’s why UNC rising junior Emerson Rhudy got involved.

“It’s relevant now especially because students are moving into neighborhoods like Northside, and that gentrification is happening there. It’s interesting to think about,” Emerson said.

She already worked with the Community Empowerment Fund and saw Bike and Build a chance to continue her work helping the affordable housing situation—not only in Chapel Hill but also across the nation.

“The whole team has a lot of energy. It’s just a great group of people.” Emerson said.



Since 2003, Bike & Build has seen 1,750 volunteers with 120,000 volunteer hours and contributed more than $4 million.

“It attracts a lot of really awesome people who want to give back and really enjoy service,” Smith said.

The bikers will journey for about 10 weeks, making stops in cities including Charlotte and Asheville.

“As a student, you take and take and take. It’s good to see reality and understand an issue that is pressing the nation,” said fellow Tar Heel rider Scott Lewis.

For more information about Bike and Build, click here.