DENVER — Tucked away in a shop off of Osage Street in Denver is a nonprofit community bike shop that uses bicycles as a tool for equitable social change.
Bikes Together has been around for more than a decade, providing cost-flexible options to obtain or maintain a bicycle while relying on donated bicycles that the shop fixes and redistributes, ensuring they do not end up in the waste stream.
"A main focus of what we do is we try and remove barriers to bicycle access and education access," said Abby Bohannan, executive director of Bikes Together. "We create a lot of spaces for folks who don't, who haven't necessarily had a lot of those historical opportunities to learn bike mechanics or feel confident or comfortable in a bike shop, to own the space, to learn bike mechanics.”
The shop offers several different programs, including their Learn & Repair sessions. The 40-minute sessions pair a client with a mechanic or volunteer to fix issues on the customer's bicycle together, ensuring they leave with a repaired bike and the skills needed to independently work on their bike.
“A lot of times, we see people who come into Bikes Together who have been turned away at another shop because it's too expensive or because, you know, maybe they don't have the right questions to ask," said Bohannan.
One of the people utilizing the Learn & Repair workshop Wednesday came in to get their brakes fixed.
“Salvador is somebody who I've seen in the shop before. You know, we have a pretty good rapport," said Bohannan. “He was heading to Commerce City — I believe he said he was heading home — and he told me at the beginning of his Learn & Repair that he had been riding without brakes on his bike for several months. He was noticing that his shoes were starting to get worn out because his technique for braking was just to put his foot on the ground when he was going downhill.”
The shop provided Salvador with mended brakes free of charge as a result of their cost-flexible options.
“Bikes are amazing in that they are, if they are well made, they're sort of infinitely repairable," said Bohannan. “It's quite a fantastic machine in terms of helping people have agency over their own transportation, helping people have agency over their own life.”
Bikes Together also holds Gender Equality Mechanics (GEM) workshops designed to break down barriers to bicycle mechanics that historically face certain groups of people, while constructing a new community around cycling.
The nonprofit bike shop is participating in Colorado Gives Day and is hoping to raise $40,000. As of Wednesday, the shop had reached around a quarter of its goal. Bikes Together relies on the support of the community to ensure they can continue serving cyclists from all walks of life.