kindness activist

kindness activist

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bicycle Kindness

Phoenix Bikes
I saw a post on Facebook written by A-SPAN – Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.  It mentioned that Phoenix Bikes (which I had never heard of) had given a bike to A-SPAN client Mr. Johnson, who could now use those wheels to get himself to job interviews.  I was impressed that a bike shop would donate a bike and decided check it out.  What I found was not what I expected.

The gift of INDEPENDENCE - the ability to go to interviews and work!
First, there was ART.  Like, really cool ART.  Art made of bikes and bike parts. 

Before you even step foot inside - something is different...

Isn't this guy adorable?

Beautiful art against a blue sky. 
Then, there was COMMUNITY.  You could tell right when you walked into Phoenix Bikes that they are a community.  They were so welcoming!  And they seemed genuinely proud of the influence they have on the people whose lives they touch.  And they SHOULD BE PROUD!  I can’t believe that this gem of a place has been less than 2 miles from my house for almost a decade and I had never heard of them…

Phoenix Bikes in action
I thought Phoenix Bikes would be a BIKE SHOP.  You know, clean, fancy, rows and rows and spandex shorts, shiny helmets, and expensive water bottles for sale.  But I was wrong.

Now that I went in and looked around and talked to Maddie, the head of the Youth Program, I realize that the bike I read about them donating to A-SPAN was quite literally the tip of the iceberg.

Maddie at work
Phoenix Bikes is all about building a community and being a part of that community.  It is a non-profit bike shop.  People donate bikes (and get a tax deduction for doing so!) and Phoenix fixes them up and sells some of them.  And the profits from those sales go into doing fabulous things, like their YOUTH PROGRAM!

Any kids age 12 – 17 can go to Phoenix and learn to build a bike.  FOR FREE.  Like, no charge.  Isn’t that amazing???  Maddie told me that around 300 youth per year start that program (not all finish)  – learning all about bikes and what makes them work.  As part of the program, they make a GIVE-A-BIKE.  “Huh?  What’s a “give-a-bike”?” you may be wondering.  Well, a GIVE-A-BIKE IS A GREAT BIG BALL OF KINDNESS if you ask me!!

A give-a-bike is a bicycle put together by a young person and then donated to one these organizations:  A-SPAN, AFAC (Arlington Food Assistance Center), Alternative House, Linden Resources, OAR, or Phoenix House.  So you see, a GIVE-A-BIKE is what graced Mr. Johnson’s life (the man in the photo I had seen on Facebook, which started my curiosity about this bike shop!), giving him much needed transportation!  So some young person not only got to learn all about how to build and repair bikes, but they gave someone some much needed independence on wheels!!

A whole bunch of Earn-a-Bikes!
Once a youth has made their GIVE-A-BIKE, they can start building their EARN-A-BIKE!  Just like it sounds, the Earn-a-Bike is a bike they build for themselves!  They get to keep it.  AND THE WHOLE THING IS FREE.  It’s awesome! 

Phoenix Bikes also does some other cool stuff, like having “open shop night” the 1st Thursday of every month, where people can bring their bikes in and use the tools and equipment in the shop.  I mean, WHO DOES THAT?  Like, what bike shop says, “Here, come use our tools to fix your own bike.  You don’t need to pay us to repair it.”  J   And every 3rd Wednesday they host “All the Cycle Ladies” – a women’s only free bike repair workshop.  (I can only imagine the Beyonce music playing in the background during this workshop – all the cycle ladies, all the cycle ladies…)
Inside the shop

But if you DO want to pay someone to repair your bike, they will do it at a much cheaper price than a traditional bike shop.  They told me that a tune-up at a normal bike shop would cost around $130, PLUS parts.  But at Phoenix, they do tune-ups for just $76, and that includes $20 for parts!!  Now, some of the parts they put on might be used, but from what I could see they take great pride in their work and are going to make sure the bike you leave with is in tip top shape.

It is a small space (they are hoping for a larger one someday) with a small staff – 4 full time people and 1 part time. But they sure seem to have a great time working there!  It just looks like they are doing what they love. 
Paul working on a bike
Thanks, Phoenix Bikes, for being so KIND to the youth of our community.  And for teaching them not only bike repair and maintenance, but KINDNESS via your GIVE-A-BIKE program.  That is a lesson sure to stick with them throughout their lives.

Maddie and team, thanks for taking time to talk with me and letting me poke around your space a bit.  I enjoyed it!  If you live in the DC metro area, make sure you check out Phoenix Bikes.  And if you live somewhere else, see if you have a non-profit bike shop in your area! 

And, as always, if you receive, give, or see KINDNESS in action, please tell me about it!  I am always looking for more Kindness Activists.  Email me at:

Links to resources mentioned in this piece:
Alternative House -
Linden Resources -
Phoenix Bikes -
Phoenix House -

As if all the other amazing stuff they do isn't enough, they apparently teach kids to ride bikes, too.  :)

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