BY CASSANDRA ORTON
Want to build your own bike? How about for free?
That can happen at the Bloomington Community Bike Project, a nonprofit, volunteer-run bike shop housed in a bright orange garage at the corner of West 7th and North Madison streets.
“We provide low- to no-cost transportation alternatives to anyone who desires bicycles,” says Michael Lindeau, bookkeeper and key master. The Bike Project, which is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Living, empowers members of the community by teaching them to build and fix their own bikes.
According to Lindeau, the project staff has three main purposes: to manage the Earn a Bike program, to provide high-quality tools for bicyclists to use, and to sell refurbished bikes.
To earn a free bike, participants must volunteer at the shop for three hours, helping to clean and strip bikes in order to reuse the parts. They can then choose a frame hanging from the shop ceiling, clean it, and build their own bike from scratch—picking out handlebars and wheels, attaching brake cables, and installing all the necessary parts.
“The shop managers are there to provide assistance,” Lindeau says. “And we always end up getting our hands dirty.”
Anyone is welcome to stop by the shop to repair a bike using specialized tools and recycled parts. New parts and safety equipment are available at low prices. Safety helmets are provided free, thanks to a grant from the Bloomington Bicycle Club.
The core volunteer staff rebuilds donated and abandoned bikes that they then sell in order to pay the rent and buy tools.
Shop hours are 6 to 9 pm Mondays and Wednesdays and noon to 3 pm Saturdays. Ladies Night, a work time solely for women, is every Sunday from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. In addition to helping fix bikes, volunteers also explain how to make biking the primary mode of transportation in an urban environment.
“It’s about getting back to the basics and focusing on sustainable transportation,” Lindeau says. “Biking is the best way to get around.”
Learn more about the Bike Project at bloomingtonbikeproject.com.