Philly Neighborhood Bike Works DIY Repair Program
Bike Church is one of the programs run by Neighborhood Bike Works. It’s a weekly time when the store opens for do-it-yourself repairs. During these hours, anyone of any experience level can stop and receive help from staff and volunteers to fix their own bike. The name comes from when the store’s main facility first operated out of St. Mary’s Church in West Philadelphia.
“We provide the tools, we provide the space, you have access to the parts if you need to replace anything,” said Andrew Ciampa, Bike Works operations manager. “Then there are trained volunteers who can help you. You are therefore not expected to know what you are doing when you walk through the door.
“People find value” in community bike shops
Neighborhood Bike Works opened in 1996 and originally started as a project of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. The nonprofit organization specializes in bicycle repair education for youth and adults and also aims to provide equitable access to bicycles throughout Philadelphia. Over the past two years, they have distributed over 140 bikes to essential workers in the area as part of their Bikes for Neighbors initiative.
Although Bike Church is exclusively for adults, there are plenty of other options for 8-18 year olds, like group rides for beginners and advanced and leadership and job preparation opportunities. This includes mechanical training on a bike that you can keep to yourself.
“There’s something amazing that happens when you teach a kid to fix a bike,” said general manager Jessi West. “There’s this incredible sense of freedom and expansion that comes with this bike,” she added. The programs offer mentorship and “constructive activities” that help prevent gun violence, which District Attorney Larry Krasner recently praised.
Bike Works started with a youth-centric program, but quickly added Bike Church for adults a few years after its launch in 2000.
Bike Church has long been a place of gathering and learning. Since the program is donation-based, it is also affordable for many of the city’s cyclists, especially those who might not be able to afford to have their bike repaired, but rely on their bike as their primary means of transport.
“When you can have the knowledge to maintain it yourself, you save so much money,” West said. “It really allows them to have an independent way to get around the city and do what they need to do.”
It’s also a place that cultivates community, says Ciampa, who started out as a student in an adult repair class, then a volunteer, before becoming a staff member.
“A lot of people, volunteers and patrons are here regularly. They know each other. They enjoy spending time together,” Ciampa said.