Old bikes re-cycled by local volunteers

by Michelle Moriarity

Volunteers moved among rows of bicycles, piles of tires and bike-part recycling bins while tuning up, disassembling or testing once-discarded bikes.
About 25 people volunteer their time and effort at the Yellow Bike Coalition’s monthly bicycle fix-up at the Ramsey County Government Center.
The Yellow Bike Coalition is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming unwanted bicycles into creative transportation alternatives for Twin Cities residents. Various local groups, including University students, support the growing organization.
Coalition members and volunteers gather formally one Saturday per month in a concentrated effort to prepare old bikes for public use and disassemble unusable bikes for their usable parts.
“We’re looking for bikes that are good to ride,” said Andrew Koebrick, coalition operations manager. “They don’t have to be perfect.”
Executive director Laurie Lundy said nearly 450 bicycles donated to the coalition sit in local warehouses awaiting repair.
Once the bikes are in working condition, volunteers send them to ABRA Auto Body, where they are painted the trademark yellow.
Other area businesses play an active role in promoting yellow bikes. Some of them act as yellow bike “hubs,”, where people exchange a $10 deposit for a yellow bike card. The card allows participants to borrow bikes from any of the Twin Cities hubs.
Some of these hubs include the Hungry Mind bookstore, Pangaea Coffee House and DNR Gift Shop.
Lundy said the coalition hopes to implement a yellow bike hub on the Twin Cities campus in the near future.
Volunteers’ T-shirts and a workshop sign advertising the coalition proudly bear the message: “I wear rose-colored glasses and I ride a yellow bike.”
But the coalition’s original intentions changed with its switch to a hub system last year. At first, the coalition simply left bikes in public areas for people to borrow, Koebrick said. However, that resulted in numerous thefts.
“It’s always a matter of how you measure success in a program like this,” Koebrick said. “I see it as a big experiment.”
Koebrick said the yellow bike card also allows participants access to the workshop’s resources, so they can repair their own bikes.
The motivations for volunteers vary. Many of them, like Brian Major, are bike enthusiasts. Major, a local resident, volunteered for the first time at a fix-up last summer at the coalition’s Loring Park warehouse.
Lundy said some volunteers attend in support of the group’s environmental causes. These people champion the earth-friendly and energy-saving qualities of bicycles, she said.
University student Adam Turman has contributed photography and publicity brochures to the organization as a requirement for a graphic design course.
A variety of people attend the fix-ups. Attendees of the most recent fix-up included a group of Ramsey County juvenile offenders who were required to attend as a form of community service.