A few months ago I bought a bike: the fruit of my winning a health contest at my former company. In a span of several weeks, I walked about a million steps, or 1 out of 8 steps in the entire company. In my department, my dear friend Tricia and I did all the walking—Tricia got frustrated with the pedometer and just gave it to her father. My manager was besides himself, probably because he thought I wasn’t working. Months of HR bureaucracy later, I got the gift cards, and a year later, I bought a beautiful Trek bike from a specialty shop in Glendale. And MONTHS later, again, I finally got the courage to ride it in Los Angeles. Today I ventured to a Starbucks in West Hollywood, where I am now after inspecting a clothing line at the Sunset Strip H&M for Triple Pundit.

I last owned a bike in the early 90s, when I lived in Florida. I shipped it to the Bay Area when I moved back there, and loved it—the San Jose area is wonderfully hospitable to bike riders. That bike had since disappeared, and a Costco version I purchased was so awful I rarely rode it. Now that I live in LA, the weather is absolutely perfect for bicycling; the conditions not so. The courage was one hiccup to overcome; but fixing my bike, a task I hadn’t done in 15 or so years, was another factor holding me back.

Which is why I am in love with a local non-profit, Bicycle Kitchen..

Located in the urban hipster neighborhood of what is becoming Hel/Mel (Melrose and Heliotrope), Bicycle Kitchen (La Bicicocina) is staffed by volunteers who work there a few hours each week to accomplish a few goals, including: 1) Help clueless people like me 2) Make Los Angeles a friendlier place for bicycle riding, which is a huge task.

A couple Sundays ago I biked around Los Feliz and Silver Lake, and decided to make a stop at my favorite ice cream store, which shares the same block as Bicycle Kitchen. I noticed the chain on my bike was making a clicking nose. Long story short: it was a matter of just tightening some screws here and there. While I was in the Kitchen, the volunteer, Ivan, noticed my brakes needed some tweaking, too. I also got a crash course in how to use my gears, about which I was instructed but of course had forgot.

What’s great about Bicycle Kitchen is that it’s a friendly place to learn and get to know your set of wheels. They DON’T fix the bike; rather, they explain what you need to do and cheerfully instruct you. “Give that screw a half turn to the right,” Ivan coached me at one point. You pay for any parts that you may need, and you pay for the help and advice at $7 an hour. My 30 minutes or so of advice: $4.

Bicycle Kitchen is open most weeknights and weekends during the day. They advise you call to make an appointment, though if you walk-in, they will see you if the volunteers have time—just like if you go to the doctor!

I have a ways go to before I could offer any technical expertise and volunteer there, but I am happy to give them my money. It’s a great way to use up some empty retail space, get to know people in the neighborhood, and most of all—gets people out of their cars!

Bicycle Kitchen also has a fundraising campaign underway so that they can keep their doors open during these challenging economic times.

If you have something like this in your neighborhood, please tell us about it.

Bicycle Kitchen
706 North Heliotrope Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 662-2776

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.