Featured photo: Major plays with bubbles at the Barber Park Community Bike Shop (photo by Sheldon Herman)
At the intersection of class and cultural differences sits the Community Bike Shop at Barber Park in Greensboro — a repurposed, spacious brick building surrounded by thick trees that served as a sewage treatment plant nearly 60 years ago.
Founded and run by multiple dedicated volunteers, the history of the shop is a long and complicated one, though the Barber Park Drive address is recent.
“The city knew what we had done all along, which was basically collect bikes, fix them up and give them away,”says Sheldon Herman, a local resident and full-time volunteer. “We had done the same thing for this Wheels on the Greenway program, through Action Greensboro, and it’s hard to know but maybe Action Greensboro were the ones that made the difference in getting the city to give us the building after all this time.”
Opened in the spring of 2022, the Community Bike Shop is a space where anyone can experience the joys of bike riding while learning about safety and how to care for bikes for free. On Saturdays, visitors learn how to replace tires and repair brakes, among other essentials, and have the option of checking out bikes to ride around the park from the bike library.
The work of distributing bikes to those in need will continue to be done at the residence of one of the shop’s founders and part-time volunteers, Glenn Trent, who started working with Herman in 2017. Originally, Herman would collect disregarded bikes and send them to one or two other volunteers for repair. Then Trent would receive the fixed bikes and distribute them from his house in Glenwood, because he knew plenty of workers and children who needed bikes.
Trent’s lively house on Silver Avenue is well known by his neighbors and now considered an informal extension of Barber Park. Any day of the week, usually in the afternoons, there are young teenagers in Trent’s front yard with bikes talking and laughing, often working on their pieces while Trent watches and assists.
“Thursdays we were teaching repair classes at my house, Sheldon and I, till it got too crowded,” Trent explains. “The shop itself is supposed to be a support place where we can actually teach a handful of people. So for now, instead of letting everyone go out to the bike shop, kids like Imari can go there and we can teach him and show him stuff that he can come back and teach others.”
Imari Rives is one of the young people who still regularly gathers in Trent’s yard. Only 12 years old, Imari was responsible for getting dozens of bikes ready for other children this holiday season.
Both Herman and Trent agree there’s an ongoing need for bikes and teachers of bike maintenance throughout Greensboro.
“We want to do more at Barber Park too, but it hasn’t materialized,” Herman says. “We want to do art and poetry workshops. We want to do all kinds of things there that get people from different communities that don’t ever really see each other in the same room together to get to know each other; that’s always really fun. There are other reasons it’s important, but it’s really fun.”
These kinds of community spaces help people from different backgrounds share values, which may lead to helpful realizations, the organizers say.
Ultimately, the collaborative history of the Barber Park shop is an ongoing love story, or an ode to the utility of bikes. A bike is an equalizer for communities divided into hierarchies; it’s a vehicle that gets someone to work or school, a weapon that fights against any corporate conspiracy to destroy the planet through petroleum products. A bike can improve a person’s physical and mental health.
“From what I can tell from working with friends that have mental health issues, myself included, is that a lot of times we have to get into motion before we start to feel better,” Trent says. “It’s an accomplishment, like I got myself up one hill, I can get myself up another one.”
The Community Bike Shop at Barber Park is currently looking for volunteers on Saturday afternoons to oversee the library and the shop’s social media pages, as well as donations in the form of bikes and or money that will be used to purchase necessities. To learn how to get involved, send an email to [email protected] or follow the shop on instagram @communitybikeshop.barberpark. Please contact a volunteer before arriving at the shop to ensure service.
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