Rachael Spiewak is out to fix Atlanta's traffic woes, one sprocket at a time.
Last fall, the self-described "poor college student" and several friends launched the Sopo Bike Co-op, a shop in East Atlanta Village specializing in DIY bicycle repairs. When volunteers aren't showing folks how to fix gear shifts and chain drives, they're handing out fresh wheels for a donation or trading bike tune-ups for spare parts. Good thing these guys aren't out to get rich.
"My ultimate goal is to keep turning out cyclists," says Spiewak, 24, who recently earned a master's degree in social work from Georgia State University. Eventually, she wants to "fund-raise" enough of a salary to allow her to run Sopo, which stands for "south of Ponce," full time.
Spiewak, who became acquainted with the communal Decatur Yellow Bikes program as an Emory University undergrad, says she wanted to start a similar group designed to provide nearly free bike-repair training and help provide bicycles to people who need them for basic transportation.
"We see everything from old Huffys that weren't meant to be fixed, on up to carbon-fiber mountain bikes," she says. Similarly, Sopo customers range from homeless guys to college students to bicycle-patrol cops.
The shop has doled out about 30 bikes since the beginning of the year -- many donated by local, for-profit bike shops -- and typically collects a suggested $25 contribution. Profits help pay rent on the shop space, which faces the parking lot behind the Australian Bakery on the west side of Flat Shoals Road.
In addition to expanding Sopo's hours of operation, which now include only Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons, Spiewak has plans to start bike-repair classes and a club for female riders -- all designed to get more folks on bicycles.
"Atlanta is definitely where the fight is," Spiewak says, "because people here love their cars."
For more info, visit www.sopobikes.org.
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