Three bike collectives that keep Chicago moving

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The Recyclery Collective

This nonprofit “educational bike shop” in the Rogers Park neighborhood was founded by members of Reba Place, a Christian communal living center. It’s become the go-to spot for area residents–many on low incomes—to find a refurbished bike, buy discounted tires and tubes or  stop in during open shop hours to use the Recyclery’s tools to work on their bikes under the instruction of volunteer mechanics (suggested donation: $10).

The collective receives many of its bikes from shops in the affluent North Shore suburbs, as well as abandoned bikes donated by Northwestern University. Some are sold at Saturday morning used-bike sales, and others are repaired at its “Freecyclery” program, where volunteers fix bikes to donate to people in need. It also offers tune-up and overhaul maintenance classes, and safety, environmental awareness and repair classes for kids.

West Town Bikes

Started in 2004, West Town Bikes works with Chicago’s underserved youth through teen internships, bike clubs and its popular [Earn A Bike](communitycycles.org) program, which provides bike building and mechanics instruction, plus safety and nutrition lessons. Students exchange their time in classes for credits toward bikes of their own. Community classes for adults are offered, too (West Town estimates that more than 2,000 cyclists take advantage of them annually) and the shop in the city’s West Town neighborhood is also used as a workspace for kinetic art, advocacy projects and other work.

West Town also heads away from the city’s busy, urban center to offer race and trail riding opportunities to a community that may not normally have the chance to experience them. Its retail arm, Ciclo Urbano , focuses on selling affordable new and used bikes to support its mission, and employs graduates of its youth bicycle programs here in internships and entry-level jobs.

Working Bikes

On the city’s South Side, Working Bikes’ goal is to help change lives with bicycles. The group collects used bikes and donates them locally to partner groups that work with at-risk kids and on refugee resettlement and homeless transition. Working Bikes also ships thousands of bikes to countries in Africa and Latin America. The goal is to provide a means of transportation to reach jobs, healthcare and even move cargo. The nonprofit estimates it repurposes 6,000 bikes annually.

The bikes come from a mix of sources: individual donors, bike recycling events and from designated Working Bikes collection locations  in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. There’s also a storefront that sells bikes, new and used accessories and hard-to-find parts and has a full-service repair department. Proceeds from the shop do directly to funding the group’s charitable work. During volunteer hours three days a week, bike lovers come in to help with repairs, pack shipping containers and other tasks. Register to join here.

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