Community bike shops (also called community bike projects or co-ops) tend to be non-profit organizations with brick-and-mortar locations that serve the specific bicycling needs of a community. Some have large budgets and paid staff, others are completely volunteer-run. Most shops have a mission statement, which is the best way to learn about what they do and how they operate.
The general model:
- Reduce the barriers of entry to cycling by taking donated bicycles and parts to be salvaged, rebuilt, and sold at very affordable prices;
- Empower people with knowledge of how to repair and maintain their own bikes with either classes or DIY shop space and tool libraries;
- Host events; either for fun, education, or fund-raising; and
- (From my experience) they also function as safe spaces for people to learn and hang-out.
The ReCyclery, Port Townsend, Washington
From their website:
Through our education programs and bicycle recycling services, we inform the public about the social, environmental and health benefits of cycling. We strive to increase bicycle ridership in Jefferson County by empowering and motivating people to live active and healthy lifestyles. Our vision is to see a world empowered, fulfilled and engaged in communities that foster the health of people and our planet through bicycling.Port Townsend is a small town on a little peninsula at the northeast corner of Washington's big peninsula. Two old forts (now run as state parks) bookend the town and harbor on the east and west. It's somewhat isolated geographically and doesn't seem like the place one would likely find a grassroots bike community or a sprawling bike project. But that's what they have!
I happened to find The ReCyclery during a weekend trip in February of 2018. The shop was unfortunately closed, though it was obvious that winter activities still happen here. I wandered around the compound and peeked in the windows, amazed by what I'd found. The photos will have to tell some of the story.
The Recyclery is in it's own building on the corner of a large grassy lot. The main structure appears to be built around a large shipping container and cobbled together with found objects and reclaimed lumber. There's a sense that the place started much smaller and grew organically over time.
Windows and doors are creatively covered in metal artwork made from reclaimed bike parts, fixtures that also double as security features. The main shop space inside was nicely organized and bathed in natural light. From the signage outside, I can see that they offer bike rentals, classes, sell bikes and parts, and do repairs.
The large Bike to School banner was encouraging, but from their website I learn that they also teach bike handling classes at a local middle school, run a middle school mountain bike team, and teach classes to homeschooled children as well. There's a large paved courtyard behind the building that obviously gets used for bike safety classes and other programs.
Overall, this seems like an ideal setup for a non-profit bike shop. I can't wait to come back when they are open! Port Townsend is a super cool destination and I highly recommend planning even a day-trip there if you are in the area.
Stay tuned for the next and final installment as we check out more community bike projects.