Three years ago, one of my bikes got run over on Clark Street, crumpling the front fork. I’d heard about the Working Bikes Cooperative on South Western Avenue and promptly put my broken bike on a bus and headed south. I purchased a blue 1980 Schwinn Collegiate 3 Speed for $35 ($5 off for the donation of my old bike) and rode home. It was a good bike, and lasted a little over a year.
The best thing about the Working Bikes Cooperative, however, is not necessarily personal convenience, but social responsibility. The co-op operates on an international scale, collecting used and unwanted bicycles, rebuilding them, then shipping them to undeveloped countries in Africa, South and Central America, and to the Gulf Coast. A few of their international partners include The Village Bicycle Project in Ghana and the Maya Pedal in Guatemala. The Maya Pedal takes old bicycles and turns them into bike machines: pedal-powered blenders and water pumps. Bicycles donated to the co-op are also recycled locally to non-profit agencies in the city, such as the Heartland Alliance Refugee Center on Chicago’s north side.
There are approximately 20 bicycle drop-off locations in the city and the surrounding region, extending as far north as Wisconsin. The co-op accepts bikes in any condition, working or not, and the preferred drop-off locales are the store front on 1125 South Western Avenue, or the bicycle warehouse on 927 South Western Avenue (above the muffler shop).
If you are looking to purchase a low-maintenance or leisure bicycle, the co-op may not be for you. Many of the bikes sold are over 10 years old and often have a bit of wear and tear. However, if you need to purchase a bicycle in a pinch, if you are a bike mechanic yourself, or if you’re looking for an antique or old Schwinn model, definitely pay them a visit. Prices range from $40 to $200.
Working Bikes Cooperative is always looking for volunteers. Whether you’re interested in behind the scenes stuff like loading and unloading shipments and rebuilding bicycles, or if you’d prefer community events or working in the store front, simply stop by or sign up for their mailing list to find out how you can help.
Centerstage Reviewer: Sondra Morin