Working Bikes shares the ride- around the globe

June 19, 2009 (CHICAGO) A bike is just a bike to most Chicagoans.

"Chicago is Midwest flatlands and we really like cruisers and road bikes anything that gets us fast on our paved streets," said Raul Gonzalez, Working Bikes Cooperative.

But at Working Bikes Cooperative, volunteers believe bikes can change a life. The group takes used bikes, repurposes them, and puts them back on the road.

"We collect used bicycles and we fix them and we give them away locally, internationally and we sell a few to pay expenses," said Lee Ravenscroft, Working Bikes Cooperative.

Volunteers pack cargo containers with about 500 refurbished bikes at a time to be shipped to developing countries including Ghana, Tanzania and Guatemala. In countries like these, riding a bicycle is often the only alternative to walking long distances to get food or to find work.

"In the countries where we send the bikes to, that really means getting to school, getting to work. It's not like in Chicago where if my car doesn't work I can get a ride from someone or I can just catch the train," said Gonzalez.

In the sea of two-wheelers, there is a mix of vintage and newer models- and many hidden gems.

"If you look at what people put in their alleys it's a washing machine, you'll see a refrigerator and you'll see a bicycle and sure some of the stuff can't be repaired, but some of it is beautiful equipment that could be fixed up," said Ravenscroft.

Ravenscroft, a retired electrical engineer, started the operation with just a few bikes almost a decade ago. The mission combined his passions for cycling and recycling. With every donation, one less bike is parked permanently in a landfill and one more person in need gets a mode of transportation.

"We know that thousands of bicycles are thrown away in Chicagoland every year and we're only intercepting maybe 10-percent of them," said Ravenscroft. "We want people to think about getting their bikes fixed or if they do want to trade up or trade over, they should give us their used bikes.

Working Bikes also teaches children about bicycle safety, repair, and the physics of bike riding. To purchase or donate a bike, visit

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