If you are a cyclist in Baltimore, then you must know about Baltimore's newest and only democratically owned bicycle shop. Only a few weeks old, the Baltimore Bicycle Works (BBW) is the newest edition to a city in dire need of pedaled transportation as well as worker ownership. Located at the trail-head of the Jones Falls trail on Falls rd. and Maryland Ave., it is the only bicycle shop that is in Mid-Town, making it it easily accessible. On top of that it is located in one of Baltimore's major transportation hubs. The Penn station, Charles and Saint Paul street, and the Jones Falls Expressway are all within spitting distance.
BBW is a full service and retail bike shop, with a focus on promoting cycling as a means of commuting/ transportation as well as recreation, Oh, and worker self management! The worker/ owners understand the hazards, conditions and needs of the urban terrain (especially Baltimore's poor and overworked streets), and have taken an incredible consideration on providing parts and accessories that will enable the commuter or leisure rider to get around without fearing for the bike or their life. While the urban terrain is a BBW specialty it doesn't mean that it is the only thing they can do. They cover the spectrum of a cyclists need from those who are learning with training wheels to those who decide a cross continental ride is the way to go. Along with parts and accessories as well as fully assembled bikes, the worker/ owners all know how to adorn the welding gear and are able to custom build steel frames, forks, and repair bent tubes.
BBW has it's roots in another Bicycle shop, Joe's Bicycle Shop. A small shop with little more than half a dozen full time workers, Joe's is a representative model of many other retail/ service shops of employment. Inconsistent hours, wage and health insecurity, and mismanagement boiled the workers tolerance to the point of organizing a union and to fight a small campaign. Under the One Big Union or the Industrial Workers of the World, the workers fought and won some minor gains. But soon many felt that the gains that were won were not worth the hostile atmosphere that came to pass. Instead of fighting with a boss the workers decided to bypass that battle and work boss less. Two years later those workers are now owners and boss less at the BBW and they all still hold the IWW union red card.
The BBW seeks to provide Union made parts and accessories. They seek to carry bicycles made by the Basque, Spain cooperative Orbea, which makes high end frames as well as promotes worker ownership, management and democracy. Orbea is part of the larger Mondragon Cooperative which has over 100,000 workers. Along with Orbea they also seek to carry parts and bikes by Worksman Bikes which is one of the only bicycle manufacturers in the U.S. Worksman specializes in "industrial bikes", mover bikes designed to haul loads, and other utilitarian bikes.
Along with building stronger ties across industrial lines, the BBW is also building meaningful relationships among other business's and groups that seek to democratize the workplace. BBW has a sharing relationship with Baltimore's community bike project and collective, Velocipede. Finally the BBW hosts a Kiosk in the shop containing Bike focused DIY, radical, and alt. cultural books/zines which is provided by Baltimore's only worker owned bookstore/cafe, Red Emma's.
Check out Baltimore Bicycle Works:
1813 Falls Rd.