The still, unseasonably cold, March air is disrupted by the sounds of drills and bike chains as a team of volunteers breathe life into the downtown community.
The Topeka Community Cycle Project is a volunteer run organization that reclaims and distributes bicycles. Currently located on Kansas Avenue in downtown Topeka, TCCP opens its doors to those interested in cycling and recycling or anyone in need of transportation.
“Giving people a mode of transportation, without a financial obligation, is our main goal,” said Cari Powell, Washburn University Alumna and TCCP volunteer. “Bicycles are reliable, safe and viable alternative to driving a car. You can get around five times faster on a bike than walking and if a low income person would like a job then their radius of where they can get a job is expanded times five,” she said.
Through their earn a bike program, TCCP provides free bicycles to anyone willing to donate 10 hours of their time. Earn a bike recipients can volunteer in many different ways, learning valuable skills along the way.
“They can’t take their earn a bike home until our mechanics have checked it out,” said Powell. “Part of that is teaching them how to fix it up themselves,” she said.
Considered to many of the volunteers as the founder of TCCP, Robert Fitzgerald said that Topeka is a great community to be a part of.
“Topeka is an exceptional community to cycle in, with the Shunga trail” said Fitzgerald. “We have a great group of people and this has been great opportunity to get involved in the community.”
Although Fitzgerald may be the one of the key reasons TCCP came to be, he doesn’t credit himself as founder of the project.
“We have over 180 volunteers over the course of the year,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s been a whole community effort, one person isn’t responsible for anything.”
Fitzgerald encourages Topekans to help out in the community by recycling their bikes.
“People can help, if they have bikes in their garage they aren’t using they can donate them to us,” said Fitzgerald. “We recycle all the bikes here and if they can’t be used for earn a bike, we take the functioning pieces and make them available for other bikes, nothing ends up in a landfill.”
Along with contributing with recycling and the earn a bike program, TCCP also supports the community with a variety or events.
“We will open during the rethink Topeka event and we will be having a bike sale the week after that,” said Powell. “We’ve worked with the Craftavists, making recycled art out of bike tubes and stuff.”
TCCP and the Craftavists, a local group dedicated to art and activism, are working together to create handmade bicycle inspired art. This artwork will be available for sale during the Rethink Art Walk on April 9 at the TCCP shop at 423 S. Kansas Ave.