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Column: Bicycle Co-op open house raises awareness, funds

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The Columbus Bicycle Co-op has come a long way from its beginnings in a residential garage. The brainchild of friends and bicycle enthusiasts Loran Bohall, Baylee Pruitt and Justin Meier, the co-op has introduced the world of cycling to hundreds of Bartholomew County residents since opening in 2008.

Within the concrete walls of the United Way basement, co-op volunteers rescue bicycles and bicycle parts from likely fates of eternity spent in a landfill or a dark corner of a Columbus garage. These volunteers spend hours enthusiastically bringing bikes back to life so that others can adopt a bike and share in their passion of cycling.

Over the years, the co-op’s walls have accumulated seemingly infinite quantities of bicycle parts. They are covered with handlebars, wheels, seats, safety lights, gears and frames, all waiting to become a part of someone’s new bike.

But, co-op volunteers don’t merely assemble bicycles; they share their knowledge so others can become bicycle experts as well. They teach classes about bicycle maintenance, safety and riding and provide information about local bicycle routes and trails.

One of the most popular programs offered at the co-op is the Earn-a-Bike program. Participants trade volunteer hours for bike parts or entire bikes. In 2013, the co-op adopted out 66 bikes, 33 bikes were earned through the Earn-a-Bike program, and the community donated 142 bikes to the co-op.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to get people on bicycles,” said Cheryl Wright, marketing and volunteer coordinator. “Our mission is to promote bicycling as environmentally friendly, healthful and enjoyable and to provide the space and the knowledge needed to repair, reuse and rebuild bicycles donated by the public or by public or private entities.”

Wright said the co-op always is in need of volunteers and donations.

“You don’t need to know a whole lot about bikes. People with all kinds of skills make the wheels of the co-op turn,” she said. “We need people to take pictures of available bikes, explain and get people signed up for the Earn-a-Bike program and other general tasks. Or you can come in and wrench, organize a bike drive or help us keep our space cleared by hauling scrap metal to Kroots in your truck for us.”

Donations can be made at the co-op during regular hours, which are 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. every other Tuesday.

Co-op organizers are extremely grateful to the numerous volunteers who give of their time and for the community support they have received over the years.

To celebrate the continued success and to raise awareness of its programs, the co-op is hosting an open house from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday.

Guests will be able to tour the co-op, see a display of vintage bikes, try a bike-powered blender and have a photo taken in a vintage-inspired photo booth. The event will include food, music, a cash bar and a silent auction. Also, there will be a craft table, where attendees can purchase jewelry, crafts and items made from repurposed bike parts. All money raised will be used for bikes, parts and programming at the co-op.

Paige Harden is a proud lifelong resident of Columbus. A former Republic newspaper reporter, Paige is now a freelance writer and public relations consultant. She can be reached by email at

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