Broad Avenue shop donates bikes to Binghampton & teaches youth cycle maintenance

More people in the Binghamton area are taking to the streets on bikes restored through the Carpenter Art Garden’s build-a-bike program, thanks to donations from Pedaltown Bicycle Company and Victory Bicycle Studio.

Pedaltown, a full-service bike shop in the Broad Avenue Arts District, recently kicked off a new program for customers to trade in their old bikes which are then donated to the neighborhood’s Carpenter Art Garden bike shop. For the donation, the customer gets a 10 percent discount on a new bicycle.

Over the last two years, Victory, the neighboring store to Pedaltown, has donated more than 100 adult and children bicycles to the Carpenter Art Garden. Clark Butcher, owner of Victory and Pedaltown, also founded the Carpenter Art Garden bike shop in the surrounding Binghampton community.

Related: "Hugs come with opportunity at Carpenter Art Garden"

“We’re teaching the community and the youth how to work and repair and use their bikes. Our goal is to get more people on bikes,” he said.

Once the student fulfills 10 hours of service at the art garden then they are eligible to participate in the build-a-bike program, and upon graduation from the program they receive the bike, a new helmet and a cable lock.

“Whether it’s working in the vegetable garden or maybe painting trash cans for the clean-up group that we’re starting, they do different things that are beneficial for their community,” said Carpenter Art Garden founder and executive director Erin Harris.

The Carpenter Street work shop’s curriculum includes bicycle mechanics and the build-a-bike program where students repair and tune-up bicycles and then donate them to a child in need.

“We have kids participating and on the waiting list year-round,” said Harris, who started the art garden in 2012 with the intention of turning a formerly blighted property at 296 Carpenter Street into a place for the children in Binghampton to come to create art.

About 40 donated and restored bikes are available for group rides on the Greenline every Monday and Thursday afternoons for students from Cornerstone Prep Lester campus, which sits across the street from the art garden. The Carpenter Art Garden also hosts a slow ride for adults every Saturday afternoon.

“It truly doesn’t matter what condition the donated bikes are in,” said Butcher. “If it’s in bad shape then that’s just more learning for the students in the art garden bike shop.”

Three teenagers who went through the bike mechanic training program now work at the bike shop.

“It’s a great leadership opportunity for them and also having the younger kids see their older peers working in their community,” said Harris. “We’re trying to work up a partnership with the school to reward children for perfect attendance or high academic achievement with a bike.”

One of Butcher’s favorite things is to send a photo to the previous owner of the newly refurbished bikes being enjoyed their new owners.

“It’s a darn good feeling when you see your bike being appreciated,” said Butcher. “Maybe to you it was just something that was taking up space in the garage, and now it’s giving a kid total release from whatever his real-life situation is. It’s healthy, and they’re learning a skill set working on the bike.”

He hopes the build-a-bike program will be an opportunity for parents, children, and the students of Carpenter Art Garden to pay it forward.

“We’re invested here in Binghamton, and we’re trying to keep the donations here locally,” he said.

Also with an eye on improving the Binghampton neighborhood, the Carpenter Art Garden matches volunteers with roughly 70 neighborhood children and adults to provide vocational job training and opportunities. Each Tuesday, they work on art installations, take-home projects and gardening.

Renovations should be completed by summer on the two-bedroom house next door to the art garden that will be home to all of the nonprofit’s educational programming like tutoring, book club gatherings, art therapy and ACT test prep.

“We’ve been pretty space challenged,” said Harris. “We have three main components to our mission statement, which are the educational, the artistic, and the vocational training, and so this will give each part of that statement a place to operate.”

Carpenter Art Garden is also partnering with Pedaltown and Victory to add new bike racks to the property.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.