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Cooking Up Bike Co-Ops in Los Angeles

I don't know if there is an official stat chart on bike co-ops/collectives in the United States, but certainly Los Angeles boasts more in one city then any I am immediately aware of.

So fresh from the oven we cooked up this dish of a Streetfilm from our West Coast swing. We were able to drop by Los Angeles' famed Bicycle Kitchen to see the secret recipe for how it works, along with other inspired-by shops, Bikerowave and Bike Oven. We found the atmosphere at all three to be highly fun and informative, with the spirit of community to be the true draw. When you need to fix your bike why not make friends at the same time?

Oh and if you like the great tune, there are more at Williamsonsound.

 

[intro music] 

Somerset Waters:  [00:12] The Kitchen’s a non-profit where people learn how to work on their own bike.  We have a lot of used parts from bicycle businesses that are expanding and wanting to get rid of older stuff and all their stock, to donations of people’s bikes that they’ve just had leaning against the garages for a couple of years.  Pay what you can is the… one of the seven kind of setups at the door that you can see.  It’s so busy that there’s no question about people just being strict on like how the rules work because it’s like sink or swim for those of us that are volunteer staffing.  We can do a lot of, you know, rather sensitive work, everything from like chasing threads in the bottom bracket to straightening a frame, as well as the surge in popularity of fix your bicycles.  It means that you get a real dynamic mix of people in here.  How you doing? 

Speaker:  [00:59] Very cool man, I got it all off.  I’m just trying to clean it up.  They’ll teach you.  They’ll teach you so can actually put all this stuff into use when you get out there.  You go to a lot of bike shops and sometimes, yes, it is worth the money to get stuff done, but a lot of this stuff you could do at home. 

Speaker:  [01:14] I love just being able to do stuff by myself.  I knew how to change a tyre, barely, when I came in here, and I built my own bike up from a frame.   

Somerset Waters:  [01:26] Bicycle mechanics is like any trade.  You know, you learn from your elders.  I learned from Jimmy and Ben, the founders.  I’ve been a volunteer at Kitchen since about 2003, and that was when it was back at the LA Eco-Village. 

Joe Linton:  [01:38] This is it, this is the unit that was bike storage, where the Bike Kitchen started.  In about 2001 Jimmy Lazama straightened this room out, made some space in it and, you know, made these racks and whatnot, and then in that kitchen right there started to wrench on his bike and other people’s bikes.  Volunteers who wrench at the Bicycle Kitchen are called cooks and they actually have, I think, between 30 and 40 cooks, and they all do at least one four hour shift a week, which I think is incredible.   

Somerset Waters:  [02:15]  You got three different co-ops, they both kind of spun off of the Kitchen.  You have Bicycle Kitchen and then the Bike Oven started and then the BikeroWave started.  Those places are their own personality and are amazing in their own ways. 

Steven Mattson:  [02:27] So if you come to the BikeroWave and you want to work on your bike, you’ve got a choice, you can come in here and work by the hour, which are seven bucks an hour, and we have a bunch of people that can help you work on your bike, plus a load of tools and stands.  And let’s say you get into working on your bike and you want to be rebuilding a lot of bikes, you might want to get one of our annual memberships, because you can see even on a rainy Saturday afternoon we’re pretty crowded today.   

Speaker:  [02:51] The great thing is that there’s always somebody here to explain to you how to do it.  My first project here, totally taking the bike apart, rebuilding all the bearings and the cranks and putting all the cables on it and just learning.   

Somerset Waters:  [03:05]  LA’s really fragmented often into different little communities.  You’re not going to go 45 minutes to work on a bike that’s broken if you have to ride there.  You’re going to try to get to something close, it doesn’t matter what it is.   

Steven Mattson:  [03:17] It’s important to have several bike co-ops because we’re so spread out and there’s such vast distances between communities here. 

Joseph Bray-Ali:  [03:26] Give this crank a whirl and while you whirl it, let’s roll through the rear derailer.  The Bike Oven got started in my garage in November of 2005.  I decided that I was going to do something positive in the vein of the Bike Kitchen, so I stole their idea and appropriated something from the name.   

Somerset Waters:  [03:44] It’s really wonderful to be able to look up to, for example, Joseph over at Bike Oven and some of his strategies politically.   

Joseph Bray-Ali:  [03:49] Most of the time we’re teaching people how to fix their bikes and kind of engaging in that way.  We’re also a social space where people can feel comfortable coming and hanging out, meeting friends here, starting and ending rides here.  We have art shows and movie nights, a bunch of different events, and people here are a little bit more political active. 

Somerset Waters:  [04:05] This is something that really keeps my humanity up. 

Speaker:  [04:08] I enjoy the social environment, people of all ages are here.   

Speaker:  [04:14] It’s always a great atmosphere.  Even the people who just come in to work on their bikes are willing to help out someone who knows less than them.   

Joseph Bray-Ali:  [04:21] A lot of people taste that emotion of sharing with, someone who’s pretty much a stranger but willing to work with you and they get hooked.   

Speaker:  [04:27] I saw a lot of people working on their bicycle and I was like wow, I’m never going to be that, you know, like just show me how to change my inner tube and that’s it, I’ll be out of here.  And the more you start coming and the more you actually ride, you just want to learn more about the actual bicycle.   

Joseph Bray-Ali:  [04:47] The good things that happen when you’re working on bikes, the good things that happen. 

[music]

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://ubrayj02.blogspot.com ubrayj02

    Thank you Streetfilms for putting this together. I keep watching it and re-watching it to make sure that L.A. really is this good for bicyclists.

    None of these places gets money from the government. We don't need to beg or hold fundraisers. We're organic and grassroots, and we are alive because of the vitality of our volunteers and the the bike community that we serve.

    Thanks again for making this movie!

  • http://bikeblogs.org/ Peter

    fantastic video! rock on the bike kitcheny folks of LA!

  • Diana

    Yay for bikes in Los Angeles! We have a lot more going for us than people think!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/GarySe7en Gary Kavanagh

    Awesome video, yay for bicycle co-ops!

  • http://journal.drowning.org/ Erik Ostrom

    You piqued my curiosity, so I went looking for info. No statistics, but here's a list of bike co-ops and collectives across the US and Canada: http://www.communitycycles.org/links.html

    Los Angeles has a lot, but so do San Francisco, Denver, Chicago/Evanston, Boston's suburbs, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Madison, and, as if you couldn't guess, Portland. Bike co-ops all over this land!

  • http://www.bikekitchen.net Flo

    and if you are ever in vienna, austria, check our bikekitchen here ;)
    http://www.bikekitchen.net

  • http://www.sopobikes.org rachael

    Fantastic! There were 144 bike co-ops across the US and Canada at last count. Check out http://www.bikecollectives.org for more about how we coordinate with each other, share information, and grow the movement. We get together annually for a conference called bike!bike!, and we're adding a few regional conferences in 2009 (see: http://www.bikebike.org and southeast.bikebike.org). Peace to Street Films and everyone sharing bike repair everywhere.

  • http://fahrrad.wuk.at HAE

    Great to see, you hook on to our ideas more and more over there ;-)

    We run this 'bike kitchen' since 1981 here in Vienna:

    http://fahrrad.wuk.at (sorry, german only).

    BIKES ROCK!

  • http://www.outdoormobileadvertising.com Paul Tay

    I used to bike L.A. It's actually very bike-friendly. Go just about anywhere with bike on Metro Red, Blue, and Green Lines, and DASH. Put yer bikes on buses and go.

    In some parts of L.A., i.e. Compton, South-Central, Pico Rivera, it's probably a whole lot safer on bikes, looking like the locals, than a snazzy, high-dolla Lexus.

    But, watch out for that closed gate at midnight in Griffith Park. I nailed one. Flipped over and broke my helmet, instead of my head.

  • http://bikesmut.com revphil

    booomshakalaka, joseph and summerset! in one video!!

    i hope i get to ride the bikeroWave next time.

    reverend phil
    bike pornographer
    http://www.BikeSmut.com