Bicycle cooperative

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Assisted-service bicycle repair at the Sopo Bicycle Cooperative in Atlanta, Georgia

A bicycle cooperative ("bike co-op") can take the many forms of the cooperative model. These often include co-ops composed of businesses to achieve economies of scale (retail cooperative), co-ops managed by those who work at the business (worker cooperative), and bicycle co-ops owned and managed by the cyclists that use their services (consumers' co-operative). To date, many bicycle co-ops have taken the form of community bike shops[1] and cooperatives organized to give the local bike shop national scale and buying power.

Bike cooperatives: community and consumer[edit]

As a consumers' co-operative, community bike cooperatives are organized and owned by the cyclists who use them. Members often receive exclusive access and benefits to service and sales.

Shop time[edit]

Shop time is considered to be the use of the bike co-op's space and tools. Some bike co-ops charge users a set fee of between US$5 and US$20 per hour. Some bike co-ops will waive the fees for low-income users. Bike Pirates in Toronto, and Bike Again! in Halifax, are examples of co-ops which use a pay what you want strategy. They request that each user make a donation.[2]

Co-ops with lower overhead costs are often more relaxed about cost recovery. For example, one co-op inside an Australian "community environment park" existed rent-free until recently. That co-op continued to charge just US$8 for a one-year membership, including unlimited shop time, even after it began paying rent.[3]


The cost of new or used parts is usually added to the shop fee, but is typically substantially below retail prices.[citation needed] Some workshops stock new items such as brake pads, inner tubes, cables and housing, and bearings, for example.

Parts may be sourced from public donations. Children's bikes are often donated when they are outgrown, and abandoned bikes are sometimes obtained through partnerships with police departments (evidence control), street cleaning firms, or from large institutions such as schools and universities.

Bike cooperatives: retail[edit]

When a bicycle cooperatives takes the form of a retail cooperative, it often takes the form of multiple businesses within the industry coming together to achieve economies of scale to compete with big-box brands, department stores and direct-to-consumer bike sales.


Retailers' cooperatives are governed by democratic member control, which generally means one vote per member. For many retailer co-ops, however, it is difficult to achieve a democratic standard. Since the members are businesses rather than individuals, offering one vote per member will leave the larger member businesses underrepresented. If the number of votes is based on the size of the business, there is a risk of all smaller businesses within the cooperative being outvoted by a larger business. A democratic solution that many retailers' cooperatives employ is an increase in votes based on business size, up to a certain point, say five or ten votes. This way, there is a varying degree of representation for member businesses, but no one member can gain too much control.

Financing and economic goals[edit]

In order to lower costs, retailers' cooperatives establish central buying locations, providing them with the opportunity to purchase in bulk. Retailers' cooperatives also engage in group advertising and promotion, uniform stock merchandising, and private branding.[4]

The aim of the cooperative is to improve buying conditions for its members, which are retail businesses in this case. The incentive to remain in the cooperative is largely due to the profits that members gain.[5]


An early bike co-op was the Fahrrad.Selbsthilfe.Werkstatt, founded in 1983 in a formerly squatted factory in Vienna, Austria. Another early co-op was "P'tit vélo dans la tête", founded in Grenoble, France, in 1994.

In the United States, one of the earliest and longest continuous running co-op is BICAS in Tucson, Arizona, founded in 1994 (named changed to BICAS in 1996.)

Later, some bike co-ops were founded in the western US. Examples include the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective in Utah, founded 2002, and the Bike Kitchen,[6] founded in 2003 in San Francisco.

Bike co-ops can be found worldwide. The Bike Collective Network includes a regionally sorted list of hundreds of co-ops scattered across a few dozen countries.[1]

Bike co-ops are some of the most historical and long standing co-ops, for example, Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative is the longest established worker co-operative in Scotland.

A cooperative for American independent bicycle dealers was established in 2003 as "The Biking Solution". Now called The Bike Cooperative, this retailers' cooperative has 300+ members across the country.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Community Bicycle Organizations". Bike Collective Network wiki. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Frequently asked questions » How much does it cost to fix my bike at Bike Pirates?". Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Bike Pirates Bicycle Club. 2011-05-24. Retrieved 15 January 2013. How much does it cost to fix my bike at Bike Pirates? That depends on you. [...]
  3. ^ See "Home, BikeShed". Archived from the original on 2016-02-05. Retrieved 2016-02-09. and Archived 2013-12-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Hibbard, Jonathan (11 October 2023). "Merchandising Conglomerates". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  5. ^ Baron, Marie-Laure (September 2007). "Defining the Frontiers of the Firm through Property Rights Allocation: The Case of the French Retailer Cooperative Leclerc". Review of Social Economy. 65 (3): 293–317. doi:10.1080/00346760701635825. JSTOR 29770417. S2CID 154329844.
  6. ^ Lybarger, Jeremy (February 2, 2014). "Bike Kitchen Anniversary Party". SF Weekly. Archived from the original on November 19, 2015. Retrieved November 1, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Duregger, Michelle (30 April 2010). "The Anti-Shop". Bicycling. Retrieved 9 June 2015. The Recyclery is Oklahoma City's first bike co-op, open three days a week. Everything is free--tools, advice from bicycle-savvy volunteers, workshops, parts and frames. It's stocked by donations from community members and a couple of bike-shop employees, and is run by volunteers.
  • Forbes, Rob (28 April 2009). "Bike Kitchens: Building Community, Bikes". Yes! Magazine. Archived from the original on 15 August 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  • Cross, Kim (20 February 2015). "The Fixer". Bicycling. Retrieved 9 June 2015. The popular connotation is that co-ops are for urban twenty-somethings who want a fixed-gear bike. But they're more for people who don't know anything about bikes, want a community to connect with, or want a cheap and super-easy mode of transportation.
  • Narciso, Dean. "Bicycle co-op helps local enthusiasts learn to do repairs". The Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2015.

External links[edit]

Lists of co-ops worldwide[edit]