In 1995 the Cleveland Area Bicycle Association began collecting used bicycles to create an Earn a Bike program as a service project for the cycling community. This culminated in a project that awarded bikes and helmets to thirty East Cleveland children, but ended when key volunteers moved out of the area.
In early 2001, two of the organizers of that effort returned to Cleveland and joined with several other concerned cyclists in creating a bike-recycling and education project that began with an Earn a Bike program in a small garage behind the Arrupe Community Center of St. Ignatius High School in the Ohio City neighborhood. For the next two cycling seasons, three of this original group would help area children twice a week to earn donated used bikes by learning to repair them, and riding together to learn safe cycling skills.
In the fall of 2002 the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op (OCBC) was incorporated, and secured donation of a storefront on Lorain Avenue where it could expand this Earn A Bike program, renovate and sell surplus bikes to help cover expenses, and attract additional volunteers with an adult membership program that offered bike repair classes and shop use to the public. At this time OCBC also began to present Earn A Bike programs at schools and recreation centers as a fee service, and organized larger bike rides as fundraising events and for others, including the City of Cleveland. Being unsuccessful securing start-up grant funding, the organization operated entirely with volunteer labor, primarily from two of the founding members, one of whom began volunteering full-time in the beginning of 2003.
When the building on Lorain Avenue was sold in September 2003, the Co-op moved to a larger space in the Flats, where less street traffic greatly facilitated group riding, and a large amount of storage space eased management of the large volume of bicycle donations, now also coming from several area police departments.
In 2010, after several years of planning for an expansion, OCBC was fortunate to find a large industrial facility available right across the street from our first Flats location, and in 2011 moved to its current location. This 16,000 sq. ft. space permitted several other founding goals to be realized: OCBC now offers shop use to the general public; and surplus, evaluated bikes that can be purchased “as-is” and repaired either in the structured Shop Class repair series, or by renting the shop stand and tools.
In 2015 OCBC’s board, with a grant from the George Gund Foundation, conducted a strategic plan to better focus its work. Among some structural changes was an unexpected one that turned out to be pivotal: eliminating co-op membership in favor of full public access to all goods and services coupled with a more robust charitable giving program. This has enabled OCBC to be perceived as it has always behaved: more like a public library and less like a health club (or a bike club!).
The principles that govern OCBC’s volunteer program apply as well to all our interactions and, as our name implies, cooperative work is valued highly. We collaborate closely with many other groups, listed on our Friends of OCBC page, endeavoring to foster “bicycle literacy” among their members to the greatest extent possible.