The Athens Bicycle Co-operative

Athens, Ohio has a non-profit organization of volunteers that fix and play with bikes. The intent being to create a community of people who can enjoy bikes to their fullest. To do this we need a very active and savvy bike community. We further this goal by fixing bikes, teaching volunteers about bikes, creating an environment where volunteers can teach themselves about bikes, planning bike related events, and creating ways of getting more bikes to more people.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

One week 'till AYBiTS Launch

I've set a date for our program to really get rolling. This Friday (April 3rd) there will be a sign-up event on the College Green from 10AM-4PM. I plan to bring most or all of the fleet if possible and hold orientations for new members and go over the user manual with them.
To join the program, members need to provide their name, phone, e-mail, and license number, sign a liability waiver, sign that they've read and will abide by directions in the manual, and make a donation. I'm suggesting $20 from every new member. 
I want to bring one Taxi that has every part slightly loosened. Then I can show what to look for when performing a bike-check, which is part of their duty as members to keep the fleet maintained. 
Also, Cory is letting us use the stationary pedal-powered sound system to draw some attention while we're there.

The day after, on Saturday the 4th, we'll be having the launch party. We'll take the first 25 members who want to participate in a poker run and go to all of the sponsor locations. Each person collects a playing card or two at every location and whoever has the best 5-card hand will win a custom-painted frame from the Bike Co-op, either their own bike or one of ours. I'm thinking of allowing others to participate as well, but they have to provide their own bike to do the poker run. Non-AYBiTS members will have to donate $5 in order to get a chance at the prize.
And after that, I imagine we'll move the party indoors and celebrate. By Monday, the Taxis will be spreading out and begin fulfilling their duty, unless I'm still waiting on padlocks, which haven't been ordered yet and may hold things up.

In the meantime, though, we've got some work to do finalizing the fleet. Many of the bikes are still in the decorating stage, and 4 of them are still in the paint removal stage.

Since last November, this program has been slowly dwindling the Bike Co-op's treasury. Now, however, it is beginning to regenerate some revenue. I have been doing a lot of legwork seeking sponsorships from local businesses, offering them ads in return for donations. So far, we have the Farmacy, the Import House, the Athens DIY shop, Mike's Tree Care, and Meagan's LGBT organization making monetary contributions, while the University Courtyard Apartments have donated bicycles, the Minuteman Press has been donating and reducing price on copies, the Village Bakery has set up a donation box for us, and Athens Paint and Decorating has donated 33 yellow sheets of 18"x24" coroplast. These will become cargo boxes, like the ones Independence and the Road Mistress are wearing. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Signage

A couple of new signs have appeared around the garage, to make it easier to find us and make things easier for those who live upstairs.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Trip Conclusion

Yep, I made it back. No great news to report, except that self-contained touring by bike is a great experience. I enjoyed the routine of riding all day, stopping where I chose, and seeing new and different things while meeting new and different people. Biking is amazingly calm and carefree when your path is devoid of automobiles. I didn't make the Summit, I had it confused for a different event (Bike!Bike!) that is actually intended for cyclists, and not just suits. Book sales were low, as would be expected in the absence of thousands of enthusiastic cyclists. The greatest joy was planting geocaches, in the form of easter eggs, at various points along the return trip for a group of Athenians who are making the same journey now. They are in for a few surprises is all I can say!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eric Goes to D.C.

Hey friends of the bike co-op. This is Eric posting from Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C. I've just completed a 300-mile bike journey to get here. Starting in Boston, PA, I rode the Allegheny Trail to Cumberland, (with a significant road detour because of a closed tunnel) and took the C & O Canal Towpath from there to Georgetown. Here are some pictures of the trip:

The purpose of the trip was supposedly to attend the National Bike Summit, but in fact may just be an excuse to take a long bike ride, visit the founders of the bike co-op, Erika and Keith, and maybe try and cover the expense of the trip by shamelessly peddling copies of my book to any bike-minded people I find. Either way, it was worth the ride!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Queen of the fleet

Here is a piece of literature I wrote to a very special bike taxi, while she was being refurbished.


One of those mornings...
Dreams I cannot fully remember
yet there seemed so many.
One always stays with me,
its feeling remains prominent.
I would let it go by lunchtime.
But this one made my pen dance
for it was the one that crossed over.

I remember you carried me through dirty streets
littered, infested, polluted, hectic.
Your character was joyous, against odds.
Your condition was mediocre, rickety even.
A jalopy disrespected.
I conjure the image of your loosened handlebar.
I could remove it with a tug, but ride unaffected.
We were so happy, the four of us.
Me, my girl, and two piece of shit bicycles.
We laid in a discarded mattress, for refuge
from the big, dirty mess of a city.
I'm sure there was more to this dream...
a destination, more cohorts perhaps.
But the feeling was tantamount.

It didn't even make it 'till lunch, though.
I forgot you during the morning rituals.

My canine leashed, I ambulated.
For some reason, the river of waste
known as East State was to be crossed.
The opposite bank, near the visitors center
I checked the bike rack out of habit.
Two derelicts, one chained.
I didn't even have to decide what to do.
I pulled you from the rack, imagined your gasp.
How long had it been?
In relative terms, it could have been months.
But in the absolute, so little separated us.
Funny thing about the absolute, though...
it can be inches from your nose
and escape your notice.
It can be the air you breathe,
but your respiration remains involuntary.
And so, I didn't even recognize you.

We crossed back. I dared to get on -
knowing little more could harm you at this point,
and that much recovery was ahead for you.
You could say I was surprised, and delighted
that this amalgam of rusted steel and cracked rubber
could still turn its wheels to the tune of bionic rhythms.
Your voice was weary, but you sang still.
Flattened tires, seized brake, bar askew,
it mattered not, for your name is Independence.
You were there for the ride.

I placed my prize indoor to thaw.
I would return after work to cherish you more.

And then, going about my travail,
the epiphany struck - two met its twin -
The DREAM! The BIKE! Could it be?
Imprecise, but likeness such that I could not disregard it.
You did it somehow.
You had crossed between the realms.
I dare not try and explain it,
But it suggests importance.
It strengthens my purpose.
Yes, I can rebuild you.
I can make you stronger, faster.
You will sing in full voice again,
one with experience, but more beautiful than ever.
And I cannot help but share you with the world,
So you could bestow your glorious feeling of Independence upon us all.
You are so humble, so eager to give.
Your sole function is to liberate.
You will be given the perfect opportunity.
You shall become the poster child of a movement.
Your duty is scarcely begun, for now you rest in a coma,
awaiting this new life.

You may remember the loosening of cables,
the loss of your brakes, but your heart went still
at the snap of your chain.
In your sleep, you receive a full-body massage,
administered by spinning brushes of wire.
Then comes the spray of tinctures,
the uniform of stickers,
and the smooth green grease of lubricity.
When the links meet again, you shall awake,
and marvel at the bike you have become,
almost not recognizing your own slender, tubular body.
Your colors will radiate.
Your checks will designate you,
you queen of the fleet.
In this dark and dingy quandary,
your hope will be seen to shine,
even when rust lies beneath.

You are strong, Indy.
You have many years left.
But even as years get the better of you,
and you fade and crack once more,
There will be blissful relief.
For your brothers and sisters, your cousins,
children and grandchildren will roll these streets.
They will inundate the waste-filled rivers of asphalt
and turn the tide of ignorance, ineptitude, and ill will.
You stand for freedom, Indy,
more so than any drapeau.
And you roll for joy, Indy,
better than any god-damn four-wheeled toy.

-Eric Cornwell