cycling for good, part I

I spent an inspiring afternoon last Thursday in Chattanooga at the Tennessee Bike Summit.

As part of an afternoon workshop, a small group of us rode our bikes across downtown and through a scruffy neighborhood to a former Methodist church which houses the Main Street Bicycle Cooperative. We were led there by Zac Holford, the founder and driving force behind the MSBC, and Heather Sivley, who’s on the co-op’s board.

The Cooperative serves the community by “educating cyclists to be self-reliant and by increasing cycling opportunities,” to quote its mission statement. Inside we found what looked like a well-organized bike shop, with three work stations and neat piles of parts and rows of bikes.

The Cooperative’s main effort is the Recycle a Bike program. For $50 and 20 hours volunteering, anyone can build a bike to fit their specific needs. As a former bike-shop mechanic, Zac can handle all the technical aspects involved in bike building, fitting, and repair. The MSBC also has safety education and community outreach programs; they have partnered with local organizations to provide helmets and lights, and with local bike shops to offer advanced mechanical-apprentice workshops.

The MSBC is an excellent example of helping communities by helping people. Each person who builds a bike, learns how to keep it running, and knows how to ride safely and effectively contributes to making Chattanooga healthier and greener. 

Zac is an engaging twenty-something with energy and a good soul. It’s easy to imagine him charming community folks and making them laugh as they get greasy working on their bikes.