Third Hand Bike Co-op offers more than alternate transportation

A bicycle cooperative on Columbus' Near East Side not only promotes alternatives to automotive transportation, but also provides affordable access to bikes and the know-how to keep the wheels turning.
For a little more than a year, Third Hand Bicycle Cooperative, a volunteer-run nonprofit, has maintained a not-so-ordinary bike shop at 979 E. Fifth Ave., in the Milo Grogan neighborhood of Columbus.
There, customers can find a wealth of used bikes in various states of repair and function. The median sales price is $30, and those who volunteer can earn discounts on bikes and bike parts.
They also can learn how to get and keep their rides street-worthy from an impassioned group of volunteer "coordinators," who teach and assist in bike maintenance during "open shop sessions" held each Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
The co-op, which evolved from gatherings of bike enthusiasts in home garages almost 15 years ago, seeks to promote cycling as safe and environmentally responsible transportation.
Its members also provide fellow volunteers and customers with facilities, tools and informal bike repair training to help make cycling an essential part of their everyday lives -- which is appropriate, because bikes purchased there are the only mode of transportation for some.
"I would get people that would come in and buy a bike because they were tired of walking to work," said Heather Pirrone, a Third Hand Bike coordinator who lives in the Sharon Woods neighborhood of Columbus. "We really are looking to give these people sustainable transportation."
Third Hand currently has about 10 stations where cyclists can repair or customize their bikes, and where volunteers can strip used bikes of functioning parts to be resold at discount prices.
Although the co-op receives some grant funding from various sources, expenses such as rent and utilities for the roughly 4,000-square-foot space primarily are paid for through donated bikes, which are sold "as-is" to customers.
"The objectives are to promote cycling to get more bikes on the road, and to give an alternative to regular bike shops, which a lot of people can't afford," said Matt Dickinson, an Upper Arlington resident who serves as a co-op coordinator and quasi-trustee. "It's totally self-sufficient.
"Everyone does their own work with help from knowledgeable volunteers, as needed. We don't fix bikes for people, but we show them how to do it."
Coordinator Reda Ashur of Olde Towne East in Columbus said the co-op tries to be inviting to people of all walks of life.
That's evidenced by open shop sessions held for Spanish-speaking cyclists...
Read on at This Week News


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