Ohio City Bicycle Co-op has engaged youths and adults in cycling since 2002
Aug 22, 2017 11:48AM
When Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op (OCBC) began in 2002, they had a simple mission: to help people use bicycles, explained the organization’s executive director, Jim Sheehan. That’s something that hasn’t changed in the over 15 years the nonprofit has been in existence. And Sheehan would know, since he’s been involved with the co-op from the start. Far from simply surviving, this unique organization is thriving, providing bike riding and repair classes, refurbished bicycles, and hands-on learning for people throughout greater Cleveland. OCBC also serves area bike enthusiasts with advice, assistance, and access to a public use shop.
Sheehan sees the co-op’s biggest draw as access to affordable and reliable bikes. Folks from all over northeast Ohio can come in to browse among the shop's ever-changing inventory of refurbished bikes and accessories to find just what they’re looking for, or sign up for a bike maintenance class or a ride to hone their skills. Volunteers can ‘earn’ bikes, classes, and accessories with credits earned through a variety of opportunities at the co-op.
Sheehan explained, “We provide an easy way for people to learn how to take care of their own bikes in a safe, respectful, and friendly environment.” As such, they require that everyone who visits the co-op understands and observes the three Rs: respect, or treating others the way you want to be treated; resourcefulness, making the most of everything you have to work with; and reciprocity, getting benefit in relation to the effort you give.
In addition to offering bicycle maintenance classes, they teach kids and adults how to ride a two-wheeler, basic traffic safety skills, and host a number of social rides around the area throughout the year. The average age range of class participants is quite broad — from 8 to 80 years old — although most participants for shop and traffic skills classes are in their 30s. For their Earn a Bike program and their Family Traffic Skills ride, they attract families not only from across Cuyahoga County, where the co-op is located, but from communities in other areas, as well. “Usually,” explained Sheehan, “the group of people you will find at OCBC will be very diverse, in every sense.”
“We designed OCBC differently than most nonprofits, so most of our income is earned by doing things related to our charitable purpose of helping people use bikes,” he explained. “That said, we still need monetary donations to make ends meet, so a donation is the easiest way to support the co-op.” They also accept donations of bicycles in any condition, and due to their 501(c)(3) status, all donations are tax deductible.
Other ways to support them include volunteering, which helps support the co-op’s events around town and serves to keep the shop open, or purchasing a bike or accessories at the co-op.
By making a purchase at OCBC, not only will you save money on the purchase of a safe and reliable bicycle, your purchase helps to finance the organization’s mission to help people use bicycles. It’s also a great place to consider the purchase of children’s bikes, since the co-op has implemented a trade up policy. The program lets families trade in a previously purchased OCBC bike for credit on a larger bike, making it easier to keep growing kids riding appropriately sized bicycles. And with co-op bicycles ranging in cost from $30 to $150, the savings can be substantial.
While most bikes for sale at the co-op have been refurbished, they do receive donations of new bikes and accessories from time to time. Sheehan estimates that OCBC refurbishes and re-homes around 500 bicycles per year. They also maintain a large fleet of bikes available for weekly or monthly rental. Schools and scout groups can hire the experts from the co-op for educational programs, as well.
In addition to helping local folks use bikes, this year, the OCBC partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and Bike Cleveland, an advocacy group, to support recently settled refugees in Cleveland in a special pilot program. The Cleveland Refugee Bike Project provides bikes, helmets, and accessories to recently settled refugees to the area. “We have trained two families so far,” Sheehan beamed. “One from Ukraine and one from Somalia. We expect to help about 40 more individuals this year.”
“We hope to replicate this program every year.” Since hundreds of refugees are resettled in Cleveland each year, finding more people to help use bicycles certainly won’t be an issue.
Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op is located at 1840 Columbus Road in Cleveland. For more information, give them a call at (216) 830-2667, visit them on Facebook at Ohio City Bicycle Co-op or online at OhioCityCycles.org.