More bike kitchens could mean more bike commuters, providing a healthier society in general.
What if you could bring the organized chaos of a working professional kitchen to the world of bicycle repair? What if you went even farther and modeled your bicycle repair world after a soup kitchen, only people learned to make their own soup with ingredients you provide through donations?
Well, just like most things in this crazy world, people are already doing it: it’s called a Bicycle Kitchen. The original bike kitchens started popping up in dense urban areas of the (more advanced) West Coast in the early 2000s and have quickly spread through the bicycle-obsessed Mountain West to the East and worldwide. They are non-profit organizations focusing on educating cyclists on bike mechanics, maintenance and ridership while promoting local cycling. Usually based out of a group warehouse space and staffed by volunteers, the kitchens act in the “teach a man to fish” concept and educate riders how to fix flats, work with bike tools, and sustain a mode of reliable transportation. Basically, if you have a problem or beef with your bike, you can wheel it in – or carry it as the case may be – and have some happy volunteers teach you how to fix it, possibly using used parts donated from other cyclists. Most focus somewhat on the disadvantaged as a way to promote independence, healthy living and upward mobility. Some also incorporate earn-a-bike programs for youth, community service opportunities and bike advocacy, all while recycling old bikes and bike parts. This is truly a win-win-win-win program across the board.
The concept is now coming to Virginia through the work of the New River Bicycle Alliance in partnership with the Virginia Tech Center for Student Engagement and the Town of Christiansburg. The new kitchen in Christiansburg will provide low-cost and free services like repairs and education to the approximately 19% of New River Valley residents who live below the poverty line. If 19% seems like a lot, that’s because it is – almost twice the state’s average and anyone receiving social benefits will be eligible for participation. The new kitchen will focus on the bike as a means of self-sufficiency, providing access to work, food, and child and health care.
The Town of Christiansburg is hosting The Bike Kitchen at their Recreation Center, but donations are needed for start up costs and volunteers are needed to build infrastructure and train volunteers on bike mechanics. To learn more about donating or volunteering go the NRVBA Bike Kitchen page.
This is an amazing concept and one that will certainly become more needed as America’s population moves back toward an urban society. It is no wonder the movement began in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco; large cities with equally large low socioeconomic populations. Reliable transportation is just one part, albeit a very important part, of being able to hold down a steady job, get to the grocery store and get your child to the hospital. This mobility, plus a reliable source for repair, could be the building blocks needed to move upward on the class scale. And that, my friends, helps everyone.