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Friday, July 15, 2016

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op is a revolutionary bicycle ministry in Memphis

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op is a revolutionary bicycle ministry in Memphis
By:  Michael Lander

The Revolutions Bicycle Co-op is located
in the First Congregational Church
building in the Cooper-Young
neighborhood of Memphis.
Revolutions is a ministry for the
church, which opened its doors as a
community bike shop in 2002.

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op…… there is no other bicycle shop quite like it in Memphis and, as its name would imply, it really is quite revolutionary.

Sylvia Crum is the executive director of one of Memphis’ most popular and well-known co-ops, which is located in the Cooper-Young neighborhood, inside First Congregational Church at 1000 Cooper St.

She is the first paid executive director at Revolutions and she has served in that position for the last two years.

Prior to her arrival, Revolutions had changed from being a community bike shop to being a co-op and, with that change, it has been able to broaden what it offers local area residents with retail and other benefits.

“We have really expanded our offerings in recent years and we have sought to engage people and to connect them to one another through bicycling, and by providing even more educational programs, and to be a valuable resource for everyone in our Memphis area community,” Crum said. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a
co-op like Revolutions, it basically looks like most other conventional businesses, but instead of enticing its investors with profits, it rewards its members with things that come from the revenue that is generated.

Sylvia Crum is the current executive director
at the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op and she
has been in that position for two years.  She
is one of two employees who are currently
employed at Revolutions.
Essentially, a co-op can be seen as being a more democratic approach to business that can benefit the co-op, its members, and the community for which it serves.

Since it first began as a community bike shop, the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op has been, and continues to be, an extremely innovative, unique, and a revolutionary
community outreach ministry for First Congregational Church. 

“This ministry helps the Cooper-Young area church to carry out its mission of caring for people, the community, and the earth, itself, while providing a less expensive and an alternative form of transportation that can help all of us to become more connected to each other,” Crum said.

Those who wish to support the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op can do so by becoming members. 

“We currently have about 250 members with a majority living in the Midtown area, but as far away as West Memphis, Ark. and into Northern Mississippi,” Crum said.

“The cost for membership is $30 each year and those interested in joining can sign up for it online,” she added.

Click here for the link to become a member.

One of the biggest benefits of membership is having extended access to the bike shop with help from the shop’s experienced mechanic,
Doug Dubose.

Doug Dubose (on the left) is the bicycle mechanic employed by
Revolutions Bicycle Co-op who is always readily available to
assist those who need help or who might have questions
about repairs to their bikes.

The shop hours for members are on Sundays from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., Mondays from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., and Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Having people join Revolutions is also one of several ways that it is able to bring in some additional revenue that enables it to provide its much-needed service to Memphis and the surrounding communities. 

For the most part, most of what Revolutions provides is free to its members and there are many activities that they sponsor that are either free or reasonably priced for non-members.

“We offer everything from group bike rides like our ‘Bike to Dinner’ that includes some restaurant owners and works who come along, bicycle safety classes for children and adults, and a women’s bike chat, (which meets on the third Sunday of each month at 2:00 p.m.), to discuss bicycle issues followed by a short bicycle ride,” Crum said.

“In addition to all that, we also have educational programs like our bicycle overhaul classes, “How to Ride on the Streets” classes for adults, a bicycle assessment class, “How to Fix a Flat,” a
Wrench & Ride Bicycle Summer Camp, and projects like our Bicycle Ambassadors at Peabody Elementary,” Crum added.

“We are pretty unique in that we offer training to both children and adults whereas other places focus more on working on bikes for kids,” she said.

The Revolutions Bicycle Co-op has hundreds of bikes for
children and adults that have been restored, many of
which are available for purchase at a low and
affordable price.

For non-members, Revolutions also has open shop hours, with the shop’s mechanic, Doug Dubose, available, if needed.

 The open shop hours, along with retail, service and rentals is open on Sundays from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., on Thursdays from 2:00 to 9:00 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Revolutions also has a used parts warehouse that is open to all and they only ask for monetary donations in return.

Other services that Revolutions offers are
bicycle rentals with family cargo bikes for $45.00 a day and 3-speed city bikes with baskets, which can be rented out for $25.00 a day.

There is also a
Cycle Lodge available to cyclists who are traveling, on a limited budget, and who want to stop for a night or two in Memphis.  For $15.00 a night, they can get a bunk bed with a place to safely store their bike and a way to get what they need, to include parts, if needed.

While finding a myriad of ways to help meets the needs of those who ride, Revolutions also never loses sight of some of the other things that are also important to them, which includes the world in which we all live.

Aside from bicycles, the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op also has a
wide selection of bicycle parts and accessories, which can be
a treasure trove for those who are seeking older model, or
hard-to-come-by items that are not available in most local
area bicycle shops.
And being environmentally-conscious as they are, very little at Revolutions ever goes to waste.

“We take donated bikes, overhaul them, fix them up, or strip them down for their parts and recycle them.  Almost nothing gets thrown out.  We try not to send anything to the landfill.  After we salvage and restore a bicycle, we then offer them to people at an extremely affordable and reasonable price,” Crum said.

“We also give people a chance to become more involved in their own community by not only joining us as members, but also coming to work with us as volunteers,” Crum added. 

“After all is said and done, our overall aim at Revolutions is to come up with ways to encourage people to ride, to be a resource for them, to show them how to use a bicycle as a means of transportation, to provide them with basic riding skills, safety information, and give them what they need to have with them, how to do maintenance, and how to even lock up their bike,” she said.

Through Revolutions, Crum would like to help remove the barriers that prevent people from riding a bike, to get more people out from the bubble of an automobile and on to a healthier mode of transportation.

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op has bicycles that people can rent out
and other ones that they can purchase if they are looking for a
used, but an affordable and low-priced bicycle.

With this, she also sees a potential for the Memphis area to have a more livable community where we can connect with each other and a chance for Memphians to see and meet their neighbors.

Having more people on bikes, she believes, will also help decrease the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from automobiles, and with more cyclists on the road, it can help to slow traffic and to make the roads safer for everyone.

As Revolutions seeks to help serve the community through cycling, it is also looking to the future to see where they will need to go from here.

“We are currently in a strategic planning process and, with that, we are seeking to build a more inclusive community and getting more people on bicycles, and connecting people within our Memphis area community.  We are trying to do all this as we attempt to become more financially self-sufficient since First Congregational Church is currently having to subsidize most of what we are doing right now,” Crum said.

Revolutions began as a community bike shop with Anthony Siracusa in 2002.  When Siracusa left, Kyle Wagenschutz stepped in and took charge until he needed to focus his time and energy as the Bike/Ped Manager for Memphis.  Following his departure, there were various individuals who served as interim leaders until Crum came on board in 2014.

Members of Revolutions Bicycle Co-op frequently participate
in local group bicycle rides.  Sylvia Crum is leading this
group, followed by her husband, Teddy, from a Bikes on
Broad event in August 2015.
As Revolutions is continuing to evolve, Crum sees Memphis as doing the same with bicycling over the last decade. 

“I know that Memphis has really come a long way even before my family and I came here.  The amount of bicycle lanes was a great selling point for what we wanted in coming here and I know it has and will continue to be for many others in the future,” Crum said.

“As for the future, I feel positive about the direction that Memphis is going in.  More bicycles will attract more people to our city, providing economic growth, jobs, and even more things to our area to include better health for those who live here,” she said.

As Memphis continues to grow, to evolve, and to adapt to bicycling, Revolutions will continue to do the same and to be there for those who ride or who are open to the idea of eventually riding, themselves.

As we see Memphis go through a revolution that will ultimately transform it into a city that is known for its cycling, the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op will be one of the catalysts that will most assuredly help spur this revolution along.

To learn more about Revolutions,
click on this link for other stories.

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