Getting to Know Village Bicycle Cooperative
As we gear up for Friday’s Social, we thought we’d take a moment to talk to our hosts and one of our supporters, Village Bicycle Cooperative, and share with you who they are and what they do beyond the info you can find on their website. I had the pleasure to speak with the President of the organization, Jennifer Smillie.
Not everyone is familiar with what a bike co-op is. What is it you do?
We help people get safe and reliable bikes either free through our fix it forward program or for less than $100. Also, we have tried to create a fun space for volunteers to further their mechanical knowledge about bicycles and help the community out by providing a free workspace to come work on their bikes.
Very cool! How did you get started? What was the motivation?
We have such a strong biking community and sense of community service I thought a bicycle cooperative would be a good fit. Also I was thinking ahead to when my son is older I think it will be a cool space to hang with him and keep in touch. Sometimes those middle school years can be tough, so I thought it could be a nice spot for families to connect through tinkering! Also I had been working closely with Oberlin’s bike co-op but I knew we would need a different type of model to work for us, so I reached out to the Bay Bike & Skate Park foundation and they helped us out by being our fiscal agent for a couple years while we got our organization together. We wouldn’t be were we are today without our amazing volunteers, Fairview Cycle, and our collaborative spirit!
Some people might know OCBC (Ohio City Bicycle Cooperative) but not VBC. Are your operations similar? What makes VBC different or unique?
OCBC is amazing, Jim and Stuart were super helpful! Their wiki helped us out quite a bit in the beginning looking at some of their processes and systems. They are much bigger and their location is very different than ours, but I would say our missions are similar in that we are just trying to help people afford safe and reliable bicycles. Our space is much smaller so we’ve really had to streamline our operations so we probably scrap and sell more bikes AS-IS because of that. Both missions are also centered around education and community service, and we both try to give back to the community as much as possible.
We’re so grateful to have organizations like you as members. Why do you support Bike Cleveland?
What you guys are doing in terms of infrastructure and outreach programs are great and very valuable to all cyclists. Advocacy is part of your mission so we believe strongly in supporting your group because while we work on improving Bay Village’s biking, collaborating with Bike Cleveland helps work on advocacy regionally. We have enjoyed collaborating with you on some of your light up the night’s programs and hope to do more in the future!
Where do you do most of your riding? Do you have a preferred loop or trail? Favorite bike to do it on?
The new East Rim trail is pretty amazing and I can’t wait to see what they do with the next phase! This past year was my first year with a full suspension MTB. I don’t think it’s really necessary around here but I got such a great deal I couldn’t pass it up! Also this is my year for more adventure cycling! I’ve got all the equipment now for some Sub 24 hour rides or possibly a day or two depending on family life!
You probably see a crazy mix of bikes come through your doors. Are there any bikes that make you go “oh no!” when you see it?
I think most mechanics will agree that any bike with a NEXT, or MAGNA label is usually a disaster, especially when they’ve had the forks installed backwards from the department store they purchased them. We always suggest our LBS (local bike shops), OCBC, or the bike recyclery to people that can’t find what they are looking for at our place.
Have you noticed any changes in cycling in our region during your time in operation?
The infrastructure has improved as well as more cyclists on the road!
What is your vision for the future?
I think if we could get a bike highway along the train tracks from the western suburbs into Cleveland that would increase bike commuting into cleveland especially because of the bike rack now. I would also love to plan a ride with OCBC and the Oberlin Bike CO-OP one day that could be used as a fundraiser for all of us. There is a great route I’ve been working up and with input from others I think it would be fantastic!