Written by Colton Lowry, ESLLC 2015-2016
We all know that America has a problem with throwing things out. On average, half of anything we place in the landfill could be recycled. We also tend to have this societal problem where we need to have the newest models. So, what happens to all of the bicycles that we own? America has plenty of bikes with over 100 million bicycles manufactured every year. In 1995, the United States was estimated to possess 100 million bikes. The only country who owned more bikes was China, with 450 million in their country. Are they thrown away into the landfill after they reach two or three years old? It would obviously be a waste to throw them away because bikes are designed to be sturdy and last multiple years, so where do used bikes go?
In Denver, people normally throw them out or they bring them to local bike shops to dispose of. If they bring them to bike shops that don’t sell used bikes or they think it is too much work to fix them up then they typically send them to bike shops that sell used bikes. One local example of a used bike shop is Lucky Bikes Recyclery on Federal and Jewell, which happens to be the second poorest neighborhood in Denver.
I recently visited this shop twice in order to talk to the owner of the shop, and then again to see the shop while they were hosting their community projects. They have two main community projects, one centered for teenagers and one centered for younger kids. The first program allows for them to come in and work on customer bicycles and after they clock in so many hours then they would be given a bike or bike parts. The second program teaches the younger kids basic fix-ups on bikes, like fixing a flat, riding safety, the benefits of riding a bike and at the end of this month long program they are given their own helmet and bike.
How does a shop like this make money though? To put it plainly, they don’t make much. This bike shop probably sells enough used bikes and parts to bring in just enough for the owner and the two other permanent employers to be paid a livable wage. The true purpose of a shop like this is to bring together and better a community through the power of bicycles. This is not just a local community project though, large parts of Denver have helped this community by donating bikes. Over 1300 bikes were donated in 2015 by community members, and other bike shops. This leads me to one request, the next time you think about upgrading your bicycle, do it. Then walk down and donate your bike to a shop like this so that we can make a better community.