Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Community Bike Shops

Some of Austin Yellow Bike's yellow bikes. Image found here.

Yet another reason (as if I needed another) to love Shearwater (and apologies in advance for the new-to-me tone of this post):

It was via a visit to that band's website the other day that I learned of the existence of something called community bike shops. On the 21st Shearwater will be playing a benefit for the Austin Yellow Bike Project, which is presently building itself a new facility. The YBP describes itself thus:
The Austin Yellow Bike Project (YBP) is a community supported ALL-VOLUNTEER 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing human-powered transportation for the people of Austin, running a community bike shop, and educating kids and adults. People-power is a way to limit the traffic congestion of a rapidly growing city. It also provides an inexpensive, healthy, and sustainable alternative to the reliance on motor vehicles. Our project promotes cleaner air, land, and water, while encouraging people to meet their transportation needs through an active lifestyle and community participation.
That same page has links to other, similarly-minded community bike shops in this country; of the states bordering Kansas, only Colorado has them.

A look at YBP's Projects page reminded me of something I've been musing about (and have mentioned in passing in various posts) since I started riding last summer. Here on the western edge of downtown, I see lots of working-class and street folks on bicycles obtained by various means, some more legal than others. It was seeing these folks on bikes of every description and condition that first really drove home to me the practicality of bicycles as economical daily transportation and not just a new, cool thing for yuppies to do. But it has also caused me to wonder if there weren't room in Wichita for a bike-rehab-and-donation program for people in need.

Something to muse on a bit.


Dave said...

I totally agree with your observation of more street folks riding, for lack of a better term, clunkers. It seems I see more and more every day in rain or shine. The thought of some kind of co-op occurred to me as well- if nothing else- someplace to get a flat fixed. I have no idea how to get this accomplished but the possibility that some local churches would have the experience to get something going kind of makes sense, maybe in conjunction with some local bike shop owners. I know Nathan over at Continental is a commited Christian kind of guy and could be interested in pointing the way. I don't mean to make this some kind of religious deal but it seems the likely place to start.

John B. said...

Thanks for coming by and commenting. I'm glad you see the potential for this here in Wichita.

I agree that approaching a church and/or generous bike-shop owners about something like this would be an excellent place to begin. I know as well that YBP receives some grant money from the City of Austin; maybe Wichita has a few spare thousands lying around.

I envision this as a service to others--the essence of the Gospel that, even so, transcends the particulars of religion. It's simple but true: having a bike of their own can make these people's lives a little easier by allowing them to get to their destinations faster, and it acts on my arguments about the bicycle's utility, that it's not just a toy or exercise machine.

Let's collectively nose around and see what happens; I'll post what I learn here, and I hope you'll let me know what you've learned, too.

mike james said...

This is one of the Wichita Bicycle Collective's main goals, a community bike shop. Let me know if you'd like to come to a meeting! it's definitely something wichita needs, we're just trying to work out all the details and get a solid core of volunteers together.

mike james