The Working Bikes Cooperative is a not-for-profit tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization which diverts bicycles from the waste stream in Chicago by repairing them for sale and charity.
Working Bikes is now located in the big red brick two story building at the SW corner of 24th Place and Western Avenue, at 2434 S. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60608. Google Maps Link
Working Bikes is primarily volunteer-driven. Currently it receives no government or foundation money. All its operations are funded through the sale of bicycles at its storefront. Working Bikes uses that money to provide bicycles to charity organizations within Chicagoland and to ship bicycles to the Gulf Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Angola, Cuba, Guatemala, and Peru.
In the countries to which Working Bikes ships, a bicycle can often mean the difference between work and unemployment. The bicycle is the primary means of vehicular transportation for the majority of the population and is used both for personal transportation and for carrying cargo.
Due to wage differences, a bicycle worth $20 in Chicago can be worth the equivalent of $1,000 in Africa.
Each year Working Bikes gives away over 5,000 bicycles locally and internationally. It distributes about 500 bicycles and wheelchairs in the Chicago area alone: to City programs, refugees and day camps.
On a cold, windy day when rain appears to be imminent it often makes sense to do something other than ride while wet. So today we opted to head into the city when The Working Bikes Cooperative was open for business.
Upon arriving a half dozen or so customers were outside the building riding up and down the side street trying to determine whether the bikes they were on suited their needs. These bikes range in prices from the low $40 up to nearly $500. All are in good working order and only the very nicest ones are more than $150. They even have children’s bikes.
We had brought down my old Raleigh Royal Enfield and Connie’s Schwinn Collegiate to donate to their cause. What they do is refurbish bikes for use both here and abroad so as to recycle these worthy steeds and make the world a bit greener.
In addition we had two very large boxes of assorted items like bike bags, pedals, water bottles, lights, handlebar tape, rear cogs, chainrings, brand new tires (for sizes we no longer use), and other goodies which they will no doubt offer to cyclists here in the city.
Folks from the neighborhood were coming in to buy children’s bikes. A Hispanic family of four walked in with bikes they had been testing outside on the side street. Young city residents (down from the north side of the city) were there trying out bikes for use as commuters. Many of them appeared to not have ridden a bike since their youth. You could tell because they were unable to balance the bikes very well while riding and dismounting was almost comical.
The Cooperative used to be on the south side of the city. But it has moved to the west side just north of Cermak Road and is housed in an older brick building with plenty of floor space.
Bikes are parked along the center portion of the display area. Some hang from the ceiling. Along the outer edges of the showroom floor are places where helmets, clothing, parts of all sorts, even forks are mounted waiting for the cost conscious consumer to arrive and pluck them up for a do-it-yourself makeover.
You could keep a stable of 30 or 40 year old bikes in a happy state of repair with the sway available at a place like this. The prices are reasonable and consistent with the mission to serve the underserved communities of the city. But even relatively affluent folks who would rather rescue a worthy steed from the dumpster can feel good about their purchases.
2434 S. Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60608
312-421-5048 or 312-371-4286.
If you wish to use a dropoff location see the contact information on the donate page for that location.
Direct inquiries to the Working Bikes Store during business hours:
2434 S. Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 847-5440 (storefront)
If you seek a bike, please just stop by our warehouse during operating hours, please refer to the sales page for more information.
If you wish to start volunteering, the surest way is to go to the warehouse during business hours and speak with one of the staff or volunteers working there. Also be sure to subscribe to the mailing list.
If you wish to volunteer at an event (Shipping Party, etc), it is sufficient to show up at the posted time and place unless the organizer has requested an RSVP, in which case RSVP directly to the organizer.
In either case, we always welcome volunteers and communication from them at the email address and phone number listed below: