Last month, the Post's MisFits wrote a really good article on bike shop/co-op Phoenix bikes in Barcroft Park in Arlington.
Kids from the neighborhood, most of them low-income, many of them from immigrant families, volunteer to work in the shop's "earn-a-bike" program. After 25 hours of learning how to fix flats, true wheels and answer phones, each 12- to 17-year-old is given a free bike, a prize that some of them might never have been able to afford.
Then, if they want, the teens help plan the group's rides and off they go, on trips such as the 90-mile riding and camping event along the Chesapeake and Ohio canal path that some of them took with volunteer leaders last summer. Others are entering mountain bike races. There are shorter rides every Saturday.
I've met some of the kids and they have so much enthusiasm. I'd love to see a similar program set up at the old Boys and Girls club on the Hill (in my neighborhood).
It turns out that some of the kids like to hang out around the bike shop, so they are given larger projects: build a bike from scratch, construct an equipment shelf, color-code the tools. Stick to it, and they can earn another bike, and another, and trick them out as much as they'd like.
The kids are learning riding and safety techniques, basic bike repair, business, planning and leadership skills, a lifelong fitness habit, proper nutrition, environmental awareness and confidence in themselves. They seem to do better in school. They go places and see things they might never have dreamed of if those two wheels and their own two legs hadn't taken them out of the Barcroft Park area.
"Bikes are just sort of the vehicle we use to teach them all these skills," Fox says.
And there is more in the comments
I had the pleasure of working with a few "graduates" from Phoenix who had moved into the retail cycling industry - all top notch kids, who are now blessed with a true passion for cycling and a respect for the culture that surrounds it. The bicycle industry is a small but tightly woven family, and having young kids entering it through Phoenix not only helps the kids learn something they won't necessarily get in school, but also seeds the industry with smart, caring, and highly functional young adults.
Phoenix Bikes is located near both the W&OD trail and Four Mile Run Trail. It's located inside Barcroft Park. The park's street address is 4200 S. Four Mile Run Drive. Park in the main lot of Barcroft Park, walk to the street, turn right on the Four Mile Run sidewalk, and walk several hundred feet. The shop is located on your right, behind yet another park building and next to the tennis courts. If you pass the tennis courts and see Woofs Doggy Daycare Center, you've walked too far.
Hours for bike repairs (and sales) are Friday 3-7:30pm and Saturday 10am - 2:30pm.