The day wasn’t shaping out to be a very bright one — gray skies and heavy rain decorated the morning, and with no rain jacket I was nervous about bringing a puddle of water into Bradley Street Bike Co-op (BSBC) with me. The welcome I received after a few knocks on the door immediately put me at ease. John Martin, BSBC’s founder, didn’t seem to mind inviting a mess of wet clothes, muddy shoes, and a near-torn grocery bag ready to reveal its contents, into his two-month old cooperative.
Taking in all the bikes, parts, and tools spaced throughout the warehouse-like room waiting behind BSBC’s doors was nearly impossible. When John offered me a tour of the place, I hadn’t imagined the hundreds of bikes filling several rooms and two stories, a four-inch pipe bender, and well-furnished office that now surrounded me.
John and I left the larger, inspiringly chaotic visitor welcoming room for the office. I forgot my wet socks — I was now far more interested in hearing John’s story and learning about what kind of person could run such a space.
Born and raised on a farm in Westbrook, Connecticut, John eventually left the state to study architecture at Northeastern University. He always had a bike, but it wasn’t until he graduated and began working that he “had time for a hobby.” Though bikes were becoming a bigger part of his life, John explained that he never received any formal training. Instead, he learned the workings of a bike by commuting: “As I got more bikes or sold bikes and got new ones, they’d have different things on them, so I’d have to learn how to fix these different things. I [somehow] never owned a car.” This learn-as-you-go philosophy is central to BSBC’s operations. John emphatically welcomes anyone and everyone, no matter their skill level, into the co-op. Whatever the question or project may be, John “cares about making sure that no question is too simple. There are no expectations.”
BSBC is more than just a bike workshop — it is also a community hub.
Being “a part of it” is easy, too. The co-op offers daily, 3-month, half-year, and full-year memberships that include full use of tools and facilities, as well as a chance to pick the brains of whatever bike-savvy person is managing the shop that day. John also keeps the cooperative stocked with old parts, so “when people break a derailleur or snap a cable they can come down here and go through a box, instead of buying something new.”
But BSBC is more than just a bike workshop — it is also a community hub. The space hosts art shows and frequent classes for St. Martin de Porres Academy, a faith-based middle school that provides tuition-free, extended day education for underserved girls and boys in the New Haven area. Just “knowing at least how the system… of a bike works makes a huge difference” for these kids, says John. The students eventually take the bike they’ve fixed home. If not for the network of bike shops, charities, and other resources John and BSBC work with, the bikes which connect and enable the New Haven community may have been discarded in a landfill.
“It’s a good time for biking in the city, too.” said John. “I think the city administration is really being supportive. Doug Hausladen [Director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking] is amazing, and he and his office are super supportive. Stuff is popping up. Devil’s Gear [Bike Shop] run by Matt Feiner, is spectacular. They really carried the gauntlet for a while for bike advocacy.”
John has only been in New Haven for a year, but has already offered his fair share in helping to build this network. His work with BEEEP!, a nonprofit that refurbishes bikes for community partners, including the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), allows refurbished bikes (with a new helmet, lock, and some lights) to “get into the hands of people that need them.”
“It should be a space that’s used by the community to do stuff that makes New Haven a better place to live. I want people to be a part of it, whether it’s bike related or not bike related, I’m going to be excited about it.”
Some of John’s plans for Bradley Street Bike Co-op are not yet realized, including several bike-maintenance classes he hopes to roll out over the winter for members and bike-owners, as well as free sessions for those who receive bikes from one of BSBC’s partner organizations. As New Haven and its needs continue to change, he hopes to solidify BSBC as a space for the community.
For John, it’s about more than the projects that take place in BSBC. “It should be a space that’s used by the community to do stuff that makes New Haven a better place to live. I want people to be a part of it, whether it’s bike related or not bike related, I’m going to be excited about it.”
Bradley St. Co-Op
138 Bradley St, New Haven, Connecticut
Phone: (860) 662-1496
Email owner/mechanic John Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read about Bradley St. Co-Op
DIY Mechanic Builds DIY Bike Co-op via New Haven Independent
Hear more about Bradley St. Co-Op
In Transit | Bradley Street Bike Co-op via WNHH Community Radio