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Bicycle Culture

Marin County Bike Co-Op ‘A Community Hub for Culture and Technology’

10:45 AM PDT on September 1, 2009

Bicycle_Works_Grand_Opening.jpgThe Bicycle Works grand opening celebration August 9. Flickr photo: cproppe

Pairing environmentalism with a do-it-yourself ethic, a couple of guys who live the bike culture opened Marin County's first co-op bike repair shop, Bicycle Works, and already have people clamoring to sign up.

Less than a month after the grand opening Aug. 9, "Spokey" Godfrey and Jelani Bertoni have more than 70 members and provide classes on basic bike maintenance and repair free to members, and $10 to the public.

They set up in the old Breezer Bikes storefront, nestled on a busy bicycle corridor between Fairfax and San Anselmo. And the non-profit co-op bills itself as "a community hub for culture and technology."

Membership is $100 a year, giving members free use of bike tools daily between 11 a.m. and 7p.m., space to work and free advice from Godfrey and Bertoni. In addition, classes on an array of topics from basic how-to-change-a-flat to more sophisticated efforts are free to members, or $10 for the public.

"We wanted a non-profit workspace that allowed people to come together to work on bikes. A key issue is just giving people a place to have a good time," Godfrey says. "It's amazing to me to see the hunger in people to learn how to do this."

_1.jpgPhoto by Tom Murphy.

Godfrey worked at Breezer bikes, started by pioneer bike builder Joe Breeze in the 1970s, until Breeze sold the company in November. Godfrey, who got the "Spokey" moniker from a boyhood friend because of his obsession with bikes, says they have enough membership funding to cover basic overhead now, but can't afford salaries.

On Monday afternoon, with some reggae playing in the background, co-op member Andrew Abballo of Fairfax had his mountain bike up on a work stand converting it to a single speed bike. And a woman came in to ask about her son volunteering.

Nearly 15 people showed up for the first class offered on conversion of bikes to accommodate electric-assisted motors.

Godfrey says they have arranged for a Boy Scout troop to come in to earn a bike repair merit badge.

Bertoni got interested in the notion of bicycle co-ops while he was at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he regularly used the bike co-op on campus of The Bike Church, a non-profit community bike shop in downtown Santa Cruz.

"I want to help make it easier for people to get around and to make the world a better place, one bike at a time," Bertoni says.

There are other bicycle co-ops in the Bay Area, including Berkeley's Missing Link and San Francisco's Bike Kitchen.

In the long-term, Godfrey says he and Bertoni hope to include a small café in the space and will retail some bicycles. Any profits from sales will be plowed back into the co-op for the benefit of members.

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