Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

A visit to Baltimore’s Velocipede Bike Project (Slideshow)

Posted by on January 12th, 2009 at 10:56 pm

One of my favorite stops in Baltimore was at the Velocipede Bike Project.

Occupying a bright storefront in the young and hip Charles Village neighborhood, Velocipede is a collectively run community bike shop. Since July of 2006, the all-volunteer shop has welcomed members of the community to come volunteer time (or, as a downplayed alternative, pay a fee) in exchange for access to bike tools, parts, and expertise.

Their logo

Anyone who volunteers at least three hours a month is allowed to choose a frame and build up a bike for themselves for free from the shop’s store of donated parts. Want nicer parts? Volunteer more hours. Collective members are always available to help, and weekly classes focus in-depth on various parts of the bike.

The shop, which is a business, has been open since July 2006. They pay $100 per month for their space to local community-minded developer Mike Shecter. The collective is currently looking to expand service to people who are just out of jail and drug rehab programs, and are partnering with another community bike shop in town to serve more youth.

From the moment I rolled up to the shop, I was surrounded by curious, excited bike enthusiasts. It was the most overwhelming welcome the Brompton and I have had on this trip. Once I’d unfolded and refolded it a couple times, the tumult dispersed — but the entire time I was in the shop the scene was one of constant, cheerful motion and activity. The atmosphere was exciting — everyone there loved what they were doing, and what they are a part of.

Read more dispatches from my East Coast Tour.

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  • steve January 13, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Does anyone else get the feeling when reading these posts, that you have fallen into a vortex and found yourself back in High School?

    These posts belong in a High School paper, or tucked under some ones pillow in their special, secret journal.

    I do like the stimulating comments that follow them all. Is anyone even reading this tripe?

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  • cyclelove January 13, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Elly, thanks so much for these posts. It’s been incredible hearing different perspectives from across the country and receiving coverage about bike activism and how it has evolved in various places. We get so wrapped up in our incredible community here in Portland that it’s easy to forget how much there is to learn from little enclaves across the country and world. It’s been awesome having a window into your East Coast tour through your articulate, insightful posts.

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  • Paula January 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Not sure why you thought this post was tripe. I found it interesting and inspiring, especially during such a severe economic downtown. A developer who is community minded is fairly unusual. To invoke the 60’s, more power to the people!!

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  • shawn. January 13, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Well obviously Steve, you are reading this “tripe”.

    I don’t understand where your negativity is coming from regarding this post. Are you mad that it’s about something outside of Portland? Or are you mad at the writing style? If it’s the latter, Jonathan writes similar posts about things going on here in town.

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  • 3-Speeder January 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you Elly for all your posts. I’ve been reading them all – front page and 2nd – and I enjoy reading them all. Living here in Portland, it’s easy to take our bike culture for granted. I appreciate learning a perspective from other locales to realize how good we have it (not that we don’t have work to do here) and to learn how much progress (or lack thereof) has been made elsewhere.

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  • Natallica January 14, 2009 at 4:44 am


    Great story, I loved it! It was very inspirational,and the pictures were phenomenal as well!

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  • chris January 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    i think there’s similar shops in portland that have received much less attention than those on your east coast trip. isn’t this bikeportland.org?

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  • Elly Blue January 15, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Hi Chris — we’ve actually written extensively about a number of Portland bike shops in the past, and plan to keep on doing so. Any time there’s a particular shop, person, or story that you think is extra newsworthy, I’d love to hear about it — elly [at[ bikeportland dot org…

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  • gabby January 16, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    oh nooo you put the bad pic of me first ! you should put the pic of me chocking lars !
    i really like that one, cause he drives me crazy.
    hope you the best
    thank you for the articule

    this is not gonna put me on any lists right ?

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  • Elly Blue January 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Hey Gabby,
    Thanks for writing! It was great to visit the shop.

    You should have attacked Lars a little more gently, the pic came out all blurry.

    Come out to Portland some time!

    Your email address is safe with us.

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  • Boson January 30, 2009 at 6:36 pm


    hey it was nice meeting you! One day I’ll make it up to portland, I swear.

    In response to Chris who mentioned about a similar project in portland; there is actually literally hundreds of these projects all over the world… a huge chuck of it in North America. Check out bikecollectives.org


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  • Daily Breather June 24, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Hey, glad you liked the shop. The first time I walked in I too thought I was in a bee hive of collective activity. I wouldn’t discredit the Portland scene though. Until finding the VelPed all I knew about bike collectives was what I read from Critical Mass and stories of autonomous bike shop work zones in SF and Portland.
    It’s an uphill battle out here though. Our state has spent in 10 years what Oregon spends in 1 on bike trail/transport/care/education.

    Thanks for the shout.

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