By Erok Boerer
Fueled by the rising cost of gasoline and the gutting of public transit, more people are choosing to transport their bodies using their own renewable human power. Since bikes aren’t the common, everyday method of most in the US, there is some apprehension on getting started, as well as dropping a couple hundred bucks on a new ride. Many people then search out a used bike, but most don’t know where to start, mechanically or otherwise. Taking advantage of the throw-away American culture while subsequently meeting the rising demand for used bicycles and friendly advice, community bike shops have been spreading like wildfire across US cities.
Part outreach, part greasy workspace, there is no cookie-cutter way to describe a community bike shop. Every city has its own local flair, and this is reflected in their given shop. According to the Bike Collective Network, a community bike shop may include some or all of these traits:
• Non-profit bicycle organizations
Several years ago, it became obvious that there were a number of community shops sprouting up around the country, and pretty much re-inventing the wheel each time. Some particularly astute folks from New Orlean’s Plan B Bike Shop decided to organize 2004’s Bike Bike Conference, the first ever convergence of these similar projects, minds, and DIY sensibilities. Workshops varied from basic “how to” nuts and bolts type of stuff to more heady, but equally important “combating racism and sexism” discussions and workshops. With the addition of rides and social events the overall conference has a celebratory vibe, and is a great way for new folks to get inspired, and the cynical older folks (like myself) to get re-inspired to continue with this worthwhile work. Out of these convergences, the Bike Collective Network hath sprung, with the mission of linking up the various groups and sharing knowledge.
Now in it’s fourth year, the Bike Bike Conference (August 10-12, 2007), will make its first East Coast appearance in Pittsburgh, hosted by the Free Ride Bike Collective. Although registration is appreciated, the conference is open to all. Efforts are being made to make sure that there is something for everyone, whether you’re thinking about starting a shop, you’re involved in a shop that’s been doing it for years and want some fresh ideas, or you just want to share and network. Since Free Ride doesn’t know everything, all interested parties are encouraged to contribute to this collaborative effort If there is a subject that you feel particularly enlightened and want to share what you’ve learned, please consider hosting or facilitating a workshop or discussion.
No matter how great you think bikes are and that they have the potential to save the world, it is sometimes hard to admit that the bike industry is still an industry, and will succumb to the same corporate consumer model as washing machine and automobile companies. Our community bike shops are an important component in the charge to turn the bicycle into an inexpensive, practical, and simple method that almost anyone can use. Many consider us the “gateway drug” of the bicycle world.
If you are thinking of attending or would like to host a workshop, please check out the Bike Bike website.
The Bike Collective Network
Plan B Bike Project