i walk past a large, old, 2-story, typical kansas city style house into the alley at 3116 forest avenue. further, past a huge pile of decaying junk, is evidence of grassroots bike culture – a kid's frame here, a few old tires there, and small groups of bikes in various states of disrepair. i come upon a busier scene than i expect, with a couple of boys fixing a flat and several other people doing basic bike repairs, guided by collective members maggie and suzanne.
i have come with my daughter, murphy, to check out the 816 bike collective, kansas city's d.i.y. recycled bicycle shop. we have arrived during their thursday 3–6 workday to see what all happens at the shop and to possibly help out a bit. during thursdays and saturdays, people are able to come in and get help repairing their bikes (and hopefully learn a thing or two about it), purchase low-cost refurbished bikes, or participate in 816's "list" (which i believe means "low income sustainable transportation") program. "list" is at the heart of what 816 is set up to do – refurbish bikes that would otherwise be trashed and empower people with low-cost, sustainable transportation. much of 816's programs seem to be based on the principal of mutual aid – people helping each other based on their needs and abilities, rather than charity or handouts.
during my first visit, murphy and i met collective members maggie and suzanne, got the nickel tour of the shop, and hung around a lot. murphy was able to put her tire pumping skills to use, beating me to the punch on doing some actual work. she can pump a mean tire (with a little help from dad). it was great to see how things were set up and exactly how d.i.y. everything was. all volunteer run for about six years, everything about the shop has been the result of tireless effort, from parts drawers to hand-made bike racks to visitor sign-in sheets. it doesn't get any more grassroots than these folks.
my motivation for connecting with 816 and getting involved, even if just in a minor way, is to be able to use my skills as a designer to further their cause and, by extension, the larger cause of bicycling in kansas city. i am going on sabbatical from kansas city art institute in the fall with the intention of doing bike advocacy work, so i am currently in research mode, trying to meet people, get more embedded into k.c. bike culture (beyond riding by myself all the time), and determine where i want to focus my efforts. i will be posting periodic updates on my progress and ideas as i go in an attempt to use this as a kind of documentation of thoughts, actions, and projects.