by Thijs Moonen
Seattle has a soft spot for bicycles. The city has been rated one of the top cities in the country for bicycling, and the rising trend is visible in almost every neighborhood. With an estimated 4,000 to 8,000 cyclists using their bikes to commute each day, it's no surprise that some feel helpless when it comes to keeping their wheels as smooth-running as they were on the first ride.
Seattle-based bike co-op The Bikery's tagline -- "fix it, ride it, teach others" -- beautifully captures this organization's mission: not only helping cyclists fix their own bikes, but also encouraging them to do the same for those next in line.
The four founding members of the Bikery developed the idea during the summer of 2005, when they took part in a protest against a G8 meeting in Scotland. Rather than taking the typical form of a march, the protesters hopped on their bikes, leaving London and pedaling towards their destination in Scotland. The founders had been playing with the idea of starting a bicycle co-op in Seattle for a while, and after their experience overseas, the Bikery volunteers started fixing their first wheels.
The original location was a parking lot of a Seattle bank, which they soon replaced with an early volunteer's basement. In November last year, the Bikery moved to a permanent location in the International District. "The rent for our current workspace has been financed by a large donation for a while, but in March we were able to cover all the expenses by ourselves for the first time," says volunteer mechanic Josef Bellucci. When he moved to Seattle about a year ago, he was immediately attracted to the co-op's specific focus on making bicycle repair accessible to everyone.
And it's true: getting involved is as easy as it sounds. During the Bikery's 'Open Clinic', the weekly hours when tools and volunteers are at your service, the public is free to come in and patch basic bumps and bruises on their bikes themselves. After you gained the skills and confidence to fix your own bike, the idea is that you return the favor by volunteering to help others fix theirs. The time you offer is paid back either in used parts or in stand time, the right to use the shop's workspace and tools. This work/trade system makes the bicycle repair service accessible to people of all income levels. Credit gained through the system can also be used to pay for a variety of classes on different topics relating to bike maintenance, repair, and bicycle culture.
With a little more than twenty core volunteers doing mechanical and administrative work, the Bikery is doing well. All decisions are made by consensus, and anyone can get involved as much as they want. According to long-time volunteer Davey Oil, it's a very rewarding occupation.
"The nicest thing is to see the learning train in action," Oil says. "Someone enters the shop with a bike to be fixed, and by the time theirs is patched up again, they are ready to help the person that just came in."
The Bikery is just one of Seattle's many progressive bicycle initiatives. The different organizations in Seattle already combine their efforts, and with a little help from the City Council, Seattle could well become a city where everyone feels comfortable enough to replace their car with a bike.
Why it's Worldchanging:
Promoting the use of bicycles is key to a real reduction of Seattle's transportation related emissions, a principle that applies to every city in the U.S. Simply replacing the existing car fleet with more fuel-efficient models is far from enough; it's about replacing cars by other means of transport overall. Biking results in better air quality, lower carbon emissions and a better physical health. The Bikery supports a necessary change in our local transportation system, and also promotes a work/trade-based system of community service. This form of local economy helps build our city's resilience.
The Bikery is open on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays from 2PM until 8PM, and on Saturdays from noon until 6PM
This post is part of the series, "Seattle to the World: 100 Best Innovations from the Emerald City."