COLUMBIA- Columbia Parks and Recreation in conjunction with GetAbout Columbia is introducing its new CoMO Bike Co-op, with a strong focus on the organization’s Earn-A-Bike program.
Benedict Nagy, Recreation Leader with Columbia Parks and Recreation said, “We realized how much there was a need for this program. There were a lot of kids who had bikes that were in poor states of repair, and they didn’t know what to do with them.”
The Earn-A-Bike program aims to help students learn the basics of bicycle maintenance such as fixing tires, gear shifts, cleaning the bikes and long term maintenance. The program allows students between the ages of 13 and 18, to learn mechanical skills while working on donated bicycles and equipment. Participants in the program will learn to safely ride and navigate streets and trails, and will assist in monthly, mobile pop-up shops.
“They’ll work on the same bike they’ll be using once the program is over. New tires, new cables, and everything to make it a new bike shop quality bike,” Nagy said. Once they’ve completed their eight week, session, participants will have earned a refurbished bicycle, helmet, light and lock.
Central Methodist Church, local bike shops and the biking community have donated bike-shop quality bikes for incoming students in the program. With more than 100 donated bikes, this program looks to maintain longevity within the next few years.
“All of the bike shops have been very generous,” Nagy said. “If the donations cannot be used for educational purposes they will be stripped for parts and recycled for other purposes.
Nagy said he hopes this program will help kids in their neighborhoods assist other students, who encounter problems with bicycle maintenance. The program is aiming to make strides in northeast, northwest and central parts of Columbia, to assist those who fall in the lower income brackets.
The co-op has contacted all of the local high schools in town, and has asked for counselor recommendations of who students who could benefit from the program through hands-on skills and functional transportation use.
Nagy recalls a time where he, “Literally, had a kid show up on a bike that had not a single cable attached, no brakes, no shifting, and no pressure in the tires and he was still riding around. We hooked him up with a light, we pumped his tires up, and got a couple of cables attached, and made his bike, somewhat functional.” It’s students like these, the Earn-A-Bike program strives to reach.
Community Planner & Outreach Coordinator, Janet Godon, said the idea of the bike co-op has been in the works for several years. Now, almost four years later, the dream has finally come to fruition.
In a small room, located in the Armory Sports Center, off of E. Ash St, Godon said teaching is such a key component to the success of this organization.
“A lot of what we’re going to be doing is sweat equity. We’re going to teach people how to work on their bikes and get them going, but we’re not necessarily going to do it for them.”
With support from local bike shops, including $1,020 donation, from Walt’s Bike Shop, the CoMO Bike Co-op will also offer pro-bono bike repair beginning on Sunday, January 7th. Bike mechanics will be available the first Sunday of every month from 3:30 p.m. -6:00 p.m., and on Mondays from 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
To learn more about the CoMO Bike Co-Op and to apply for the Earn-A-Bike program, visit the City of Columbia’s website.