Providence's Alternative Source!

Recycle-A-Bike lends fresh life to tired wheels


In the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church on Broad Street in Providence are five workstations, five toolsets, and a sign on the door that reads, "Remember, you are the doctor and the bike is your patient." The countless parts, tires, and bicycles in various stages of repair and disrepair have been donated by the Providence Police Department, the US Justice Department, Ron's Bike Shop, and Concerned Citizens of North Providence, among others. They are being refurbished by Recycle-A-Bike to be redistributed near and far.

Recycle-A-Bike began about a year ago when members of the Providence faction of Critical Mass, the activist happening that promotes bicycling with in-your-face tactics, realized that many of those showing up for rides couldn't take part since their bikes were in such poor condition. Coordinators Mary Hastings and Neal Walsh recognized the need for a free space where members of the community could learn about basic bike maintenance and safety. As part of the effort, Recycle-A-Bike hosts five-week programs for adults and children; workshops in which four hours of volunteer service earns participants a free bike; and the tools, parts, space and knowledge to spread comprehensive learning about bike maintenance and repair.

Recycle-A-Bike sponsors bike outreach programs to reintroduce rehabilitated bikes into the community. Volunteers work with the Federal Hill House Association to distribute bikes during the holidays. Inspired by Bikes Not Bombs in Boston, Recycle-A-Bike is also working with the Sabre Foundation -- which distributes books and educational materials in Eastern Europe and Africa -- to send a 40-foot container filled with books and 50 bikes to Liberia.

Recycle-A-Bike is interested in encompassing as many communities as possible. There are future plans to start a women's-only night and to hold classes in Spanish. Organizers hope for the entire program to eventually become bilingual. They also want to connect with a wider audience. Hastings plans to travel from state to state this winter, checking out bike communities and developing lines of communication between them. Then it's off to Europe to investigate the bicycle culture there and create more contacts.

Recycle-A-Bike is funded through the West End Renewal Fund, the United Way of Southeastern New England, and philanthropists Kim and Liz Chace. The program operates under Trinity Encore, a non-profit organization that supports community outreach programs. Recycle-A-Bike also holds auctions to sell antique and art bikes.

Their last fundraiser, at Julian's on Broadway, raised about $1500 to help restock Recycle-A-Bike's supplies. The group has developed a committed crew of about 12 steady volunteers who maintain a comfortable atmosphere dedicated to learning and asking questions. Eight people form the organizing bike collective, including coordinators, mechanics, teachers and all-around volunteers with a variety of skills and levels of experience. Recycle-A-Bike is always looking for more people with bike knowledge, teaching experience, or an interest in the fine art of bicycling. To find out more, call (401) 454-5865.

Issue Date: November 22 - 28, 2002