A bicycle is a deceptively simple machine (that is of course until you can’t get those wheels trued, or the shifters adjusted quite right). But this simple machine can have such an immense impact on a community, as proven by Chapel Hill/Carrboroís volunteer driven bicycle coop, The ReCYCLEry.
The ReCYCLEry celebrates its 15th birthday this year and has fixed well over 5,000 bikes in that time, though the co-op’s impact on the Triangle community is immeasurable. With a belief that bicycling should be accessible to everyone, and everyone should have the basic knowledge and tools available to them to maintain theirs, the ReCYCLEry has gone beyond being just a place to fix a bike.
No one is turned away from those red doors down the back alley of Graham Street, as long as they come with a willingness to learn. The ReCYCLEry fosters an inclusive community of bike enthusiasts regardless of their age, skill, or background. Everyone has one thing in common: their passion for cycling. Whether it’s planning a mobile workshop day, or helping build a bike-obsessed teen his dream ride, anyone involved with the ReCYCLEry jumps at the chance to help out and expects nothing in return, but to see a smile on someone’s face and the knowledge that one more person is out there on two wheels.
This volunteer aspect is another crucial building block of the co-op. Not only do bikes get fixed, but people come away empowered with new skills. They gain independence and confidence, in an environment when there really are no stupid questions. It’s liberating for people to realize that it is entirely possible for them to have the skills to fix a bike and that they don’t have to rely on others to do so.
The ReCYCLEry isn’t just about building a community of its own, but also giving back to the one that houses it.
Not only have they established a legacy of providing safe and functioning bicycles to people who need them, but they also work to unite them in celebrating alternative transportation. The ReCYCLEry has brought Kidical Mass to Carrboro since November 2011, an event that teaches bicycling safety and promotes getting kids on bikes. This event continues to draw at least 150 children and their families together twice a year.
Stemming from Kidical Mass, the ReCYCLEry put together the Tarwheel Tweens, a cycling group geared towards building independence and empowering young adults through long-distance biking. Even further, the ReCYCLEry acts as an incubator for other vital bicycling-related ideas. They teach mechanic classes and there is even a night dedicated specifically to women mechanics (Moon Cycles on Facebook). They help other local bike cooperatives and organizations with their fundraising and event planning efforts, put on cruiser rides that are friendly to all levels of cyclists, all while having fine style in cycling jerseys (see dangermuffindesign.com for details). Without the ReCYCLEry, Carrboro/Chapel Hill would not have the vibrant and diverse cycling culture that it does.
To learn more about being able to fix your own simple machine, to build a bicycle of your own, or to stay up to date on upcoming events, join the ReCYCLEry Facebook page at Carrboro ReCYCLEry, or check out the website, www.recyclery.org. Come be a part of the next 15 years of cycling in Carrboro/Chapel Hill.
Rachael Fiorentino is a videographer, writer, jersey designer and avid cyclist.