Bike Collectives: Bridging the Gap Between Cycling and Community

Ottawa "Bicycle Reuse Depot." Photo by Peter Blanchard

At Ground Control Systems, we recognize and understand that cycling expands beyond bicycle infrastructure. One area of the cycling lifestyle that we find extremely important is the concept of community; something that many cyclists can expect to find when they visit a local bike collective.

Photo by Umberto Brayj

A bike collective, bike co-op, bike kitchen, or community bike shop, is a local volunteer-run, non-profit organization focused on creating a central location for the community to come together and learn about bike maintenance. These collectives offer a space for bicycle repair as well as access to refurbished bikes and parts, and can be found in a number of cities across the country.

Operating off of small donations from visitors and the sales of donated bikes and parts, bike collectives specialize in offering the public a space with a variety of tools and equipment needed to fix nearly any bike related problem.

Now don’t be mistaken, this isn’t just any ordinary bike shop. If you plan on coming into a bike collective, you should expect to get your hands dirty. Yes, they will provide you with tools and experienced staff, but you will be providing the labor. It’s a learning experience. It may seem daunting at first, but there’s a certain sense of satisfaction you can expect to feel after you fix your bike or even help another person fix theirs.

Along with normal operation hours, many bike collectives also offer specialized workshops and classes for individuals who want to take fixing their bike to the next level. For instance, the Sacramento Bike Kitchen in California offers classes on topics such as Basic Bike Maintenance and Wheel Building. The Provo Bike Collective in Utah offers a Mechanics 101 class educating the community on what goes into the inner workings of a bicycle.The Corvallis Bicycle Collective in Oregon offers a Utilizing Your Bike workshop where volunteers talk with the community about how they can get the most out of their bike riding experience.

Photo by Richard Masoner

Bicycle collectives see it as their duty to make both bike repair and bike education accessible to all, but they also serve as much more than just a repair shop. Like your local barbershop or community garden, bike co-ops serve as a place where individuals can come in not only for a service, but also a conversation. They are a place where people from the community can come together to socialize, share stories, and create lasting relationships.

Interested in visiting or volunteering at a local bike collective near you? Or even thinking about helping to establish one in your city? Then take some time and check out the The Bicycle Collective Network.  It’s a great resource that serves as a central hub where anyone involved in, or trying to get involved in, community based bicycle projects can connect and share information.

In a world where digital communication is taking over and the number of face-to-face interactions seem to be declining, it is encouraging that something like a bicycle collective exists. There is something very genuine about a place people can go to collaborate and problem solve together. That is why at Ground Control Systems we respect the mindset and vision set forth by many of these collectives. The notion of community is a powerful thing, and something that we, like bike collectives, work to establish within all levels of our company.

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