For members of the Bloomington Community Bike Project, riding bicycles is about sustainability and accessibility, and cost should be no barrier to learning to ride.
As summer draws near, the Bloomington Community Bike Project, a cooperative that provides bike tools and maintenance classes in addition to advice for little to no cost, is preparing for its busiest season.
The cooperative focuses on increasing sustainability and accessibility in Bloomington, said Hugh Farrell, a member of the collective.
“It’s been an important resource for me,” Farrell said. “It focuses on the role of cycling not only as a fun activity but also as an aspect of sustainable life.”
The Bike Project was started in 1997 by members of the Center for Sustainable Living.
They have open shop hours Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays where anyone can come in and learn about their bikes, get help fixing their bikes, sell their bikes or purchase parts for their bike. Everything at the shop is donated.
The shop is located at at 216 N. Madison St.
They also have an Earn-a-Bike program that allows volunteers to work for at least three hours at the shop in exchange for a bike.
Farrell said anyone is welcome at the shop. He sees people who might not have enough money for a bike but need a form of transportation. College students also come in as well as sport cyclists or people who are passionate about the environment.
“The best thing about the Bike Project is that you see an entire range of people,” Farrell said. “Anyone who wants to join, I’d encourage to just come to open shifts.”
The Bike Project also offers a Ladies’ Night program every Thursday where women can come and learn about how to work on bicycles. That program is entirely staffed by women and run by Jeanne Smith, volunteer at the shop.
“Go around to all the bike shops and see how many women you see,” Smith said.
Smith added when it comes to bicycling, riders do not have to know everything, but if they can’t fix a flat, they become really vulnerable. Ladies’ Night gives women an opportunity to learn about this kind of maintenance in a comfortable situation, Smith said.
“I’m really supportive, and I believe women are totally capable,” Smith said.
As for staying safe, Farrell said maintenance is really important to ensure bikes are ready to ride. Bicycles can seem intimidating at first, Farrell said, but they are actually really simple.
He added it's important to try to keep a bike sheltered and out of the rain but to also try to understand how bikes work.
“All these things you can learn to do at the Bike Project and you can do it with other people or with friends,” Farrell said.
Smith said when it comes to safety, riders should ride defensively and watch out for cars, bikes and pedestrians.
Smith said volunteers keep the shop going and the shop could always use more.
“I really just want to encourage people to come volunteer even if they think they don’t know how to do it,” Smith said.
Farrell said there are a lot of barriers in society that are based on money, but the Bike Project’s goal is to make sure everyone has access to transportation and the ability to stay healthy regardless of price.
He added not having money isn’t a good reason to keep someone off a bike.
“To me, that is absolute,” Farrell said.