When Bike Works opened its doors in Columbia City, there were no bike shops between Capitol Hill and Renton. Today, the Bike Works house is bursting at its seams, and the shop is constantly working to keep up with the ever-growing demand for bikes, bike repair and bike education in Rainier Valley.
Seattle’s Child Magazine recently published a wonderful little profile of the organization:
When the founders of Bike Works were deciding on a place to open a shop in the mid-nineties, Columbia City materialized as an ideal fit. Here was an area that was home to a young population who relied heavily on public transportation, yet lacked a bicycle culture. At the time, not even a single bike shop existed between Capitol Hill and Renton.
Now, 15 years later, the bike shop on Ferdinand Street constantly buzzes with activity. On the surface, it’s a store that offers refurbished bikes and repair services at affordable prices. Most of the bikes are donated – many are given a second life instead of winding up in a landfill. Behind the store front is a web of programs that extends into a community that has responded with serious and sustained enthusiasm. “Our problem is that our programs are almost too successful!” said Tina Bechler, Program Director of Bike Works. “Demand is higher than our capacity.”
One flagship program is Earn-a-Bike, which teaches kids ages 9 to 17 how to repair bikes over the course of eight weeks. At the end of 18 hours of community service, helping to fix bikes for others, all graduates get to refurbish a bike to keep for themselves. After that, kids can join different riding groups, where they learn to navigate the city safely and independently on two wheels. Street Burners involves adventures on BMX, road, and mountain bikes as well as undertakings like bike polo and bike art. There are outings during the school year in addition to week-long summer camps. Certain camps bring kids outside the city, pedaling through different parts of the state while learning about environmental and social justice issues.