Recycle Your Bike: Phoenix Bikes
Some people have bikes sitting in the corner of the garage that just need a quick trip to the repair shop to work again. A community youth bike repair shop like Phoenix Bikes in Arlington, VA, can help get those bikes road-ready while also teaching teens valuable skills in a positive work environment.
|Students at Phoenix Bikes spend at least 25 hours in the repair shop fixing a donated broken bike, which they get to keep.
At Phoenix Bikes, young people learn leadership, business, problem-solving, and social skills through repairing bikes together with older bike mechanics and other young people in the program.
“It’s a hands-on learning environment with unique problems that kids aren’t running into in school or at home that helps kids that aren’t doing that well in the standard learning environment,” says Colin Dixon, director of Phoenix Bikes. “It gives them a place to be successful.”
Students begin the program first by participating in “earn-a-bike,” where they spend at least 25 hours in the repair shop fixing a donated broken bike, which they get to keep. After this stage, the teens learn more advanced bike mechanics and learn other aspects the business, such as organizing community bike rides or learning to use the cash register.
Young people usually hear about the program through word-of-mouth from their friends, and they can choose to spend as much or as little time in the shop as they want. Some are interested in bike mechanics, some are interested in BMX, and others are just interested in working in a new, positive environment with other kids their age.
“One kid probably was in the program six months before he actually learned how to ride a bicycle, and until that point he didn’t take much of an interest in the mechanic side either,” says Dixon. “He would come in and hang out, and put his two cents into conversations.” Dixon thinks he was drawn to the repair shop because he didn’t do after-school sports, didn’t want to be involved in gangs, and didn’t want to go hang around his house, which was crowded with family members.
While programs like Phoenix have a positive impact on young people, they also provide a valuable service to community members. These shops provide avid cyclists—especially those who rely on bikes as their main form of transportation—a repair shop to help ensure they’ll be able to get to work or school. And they help fix bikes that have been collecting cobwebs in the garage, refurbishing them for the original owner or getting them ready for a new owner instead of a trip to the landfill.
For more information, check out this list of youth bike programs, courtesy of International Bicycle Fund.