Getting More Butts on Bikes

Walk into a bike shop and you're likely to enter a place full of price tags equal to a handful of paychecks. Maybe a few spandex-clad, middle and upperclass people walk the aisles looking for the latest gear. But picture instead walking up to the entrance of The Spoke Folks at 221 Logan St. On the way in, you'll pass a rack of bikes haphazardly parked and locked up. The garage door is open for anyone to ride their bike right into the shop as the inside turns into a workspace with parts, tires, and tools hanging on the walls or left on a workbench by the last person who used them. An empty growler or two lurks among all the gear. Bikes are propped up on vices, and a low chatter can be heard as people working on their own bikes ask for help from staff members. The casual glow from a chandelier made of bike wheels lights the people working below.

The Spoke Folks is a non-profit, co-op bike shop with the goal of making biking more accessible for everyone. They offer services, parts, and new and used bikes at affordable prices, a pretty odd concept to the biking community. Education and empowerment are also part of the deal. You can pay a $5 fee to use their tools and resources to fix your own bike, receiving help from the staff if you aren't very mechanically savvy. 

Above all, The Spoke Folks are working to include people of lower incomes who feel out-of-place in a typical bike shop that caters to more wealthy classes. Communities living in poverty have been excluded from the biking community, even though biking might be their main source of transportation. Rather than spending $30 to fix a flat tire, they'll fix it themselves or ride on a bike that isn't safe.  

Inequalities in gender are also a problem in the biking community. Women bicyclists are frequently assumed to be less serious or have less knowledge about biking than men. Morgan Barkley, the shop mechanic, has experienced people questioning her before allowing her to fix their bike. Other times, people have walked into the shop, been greeted by her, and continued looking around for someone else to help them. Her abilities are doubted much too often, and while these might seem like minor annoyances, experiencing it on a regular basis can slowly break down a person's confidence and the cohesiveness of the surrounding community.

These gaps and inequities won't be solved overnight or by one organization, but by treating people with respect, Spoke Folks is affecting change with each person who comes into the shop. They know it's about listening and doing everything with a caring attitude.

Find out more about Spoke Folks on their website.