How did you learn to ride a bike? Chances are, an adult put you on a bike and pushed, and eventually let go, and you made the choice to either stay upright or fall. How did you learn to fix a bike? Chances are … you didn’t. VeloCity Bicycle Co-op is here to help.
Christian Myers is the co-founder of VeloCity, whose mission is to grow and empower an inclusive biking community through education and affordability. “You can come here with no knowledge and leave feeling that you’ve learned something,” Christian says. “You’re not going to be looked down on because you don’t know how to put air in your tires. No one is going to judge you.”
VeloCity Bicycle Co-op
A lot of people have different definitions of what makes a co-op. For VeloCity, the co-op refers to the volunteers. If you volunteer with them, you recieve benefits such as discounts on parts through their distributors, use of the stands, and the ability to learn and hone your skills.
“For everyone else, it’s a place you can come in where you can get assistance,” says Christian. “We ask for a $15 donation an hour. Throw your bike on the stand and we’ll help you fix it.”
You can have someone work on your bike for you, you can work on your bike yourself, you can buy a refurbished donated bike, or you can buy a frame and parts and build your own bike.
Working with Kids
Christian had gotten into some trouble as a kid, back in the days when children ran amuck outside after school until dinnertime. Perhaps if there had been a VeloCity in his town growing up, he would still have been naughty, but it may have helped. “It would definitely have been a really cool place to be,” he says. “There was nothing at all like this when I was a kid.”
He wanted to create a space where kids could better spend their time, hang out, and feel safe. “What better way to get in touch with a child than bicycles? Bicycles were freedom for me,” he says.
In the Land of the Free, people are sometimes bound by transportation restrictions. Christian knew one girl who walked for miles to get to work every day, even with changing bus stops. Although now people can just call a car to come pick them up, their freedom is still hampered by lack of transportation, and simple solutions like bikes are sometimes overlooked.
One community near to VeloCity is mostly Spanish-speaking, and the community members have two or three jobs to scrape by and transport themselves by riding their bikes. When the bikes break down, they bring them to Christian. “They come and see me because a lot of the bigger shops seem not to have as much time for them,” he says. VeloCity will never look down on a lack of knowledge or broken English. “We break barriers through this shop, which is awesome,” says Christian. “We’re going to work with you. No one’s going to judge you.”
VeloCity runs several programs through the city of Alexandria and the police department to help the community. Through Teams Work, four or five kids come and work with Christian for six weeks in the summer, six hours per day, Monday through Thursday. “We do everything from learn how to scrub the floor to actually working on bikes and interacting with the public,” Christian says.
The Earn-a-Bike program lets children come to the shop, choose a bike to work on, and learn how to properly care for it and repair it. By the end, hopefully each child will have earned their bike. Allowing them to work for it and earn it themselves instead of just giving them the bike instills a pride of ownership.
During the holidays, however, they do give bikes away. They save up the childrens’ bikes that they receive, fix them up with new tires and refurbishments, and give them to children. “Their faces and how they light up, hands-down, that’s what it’s all about,” says Christian.
They also work with a transition shelter to help people get back into the workforce, and with juvenile probations kids.
VeloCity will put you on a bike and push. Now, will you choose to stay upright, or will you fall?
Learn more about VeloCity and how they help the community at the website.