Working Bikes is Making a Difference in Their Community and World Wide

Working Bikes is Making a Difference in Their Community and World Wide


Working Bikes Chicago was founded in 1999 by Lee Ravenscroft and Amy Little with the mission to strengthen communities both near and far through the power of bicycles. Their goal was to sustainably rescue bikes that people in the community were either planning to discard or sell for scrap metal. They started selling some of the restored bikes to the local community to fund the shipment of bikes to areas in South America, such as El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Fast forward to today and Working Bikes has achieved remarkable milestones. They have collected and refurbished over 100,000 bikes and redistributed them both locally and globally benefiting partner organizations across the Chicagoland area, Africa and Latin America. Annually, approximately 10,000 bikes are collected. 7,000 of them are donated to international partners and the rest find new homes within the Chicagoland area through the Cycle of Peace and Cycle of Power donation programs.

The impact extends beyond mere collection and distribution. An extensive network of volunteers, interns, and scholarship recipients collaborates to refurbish these bicycles. By doing so, they empower members of underserved communities, providing them with mechanical skills, work experience, and job training. These bikes are sold to the local community at under market value and contribute to over 90% of Working Bikes’ operating budget which makes them a highly sustainable and valuable asset within the community. 

Local Programs

Working Bikes serves as a hub for community engagement and skill development. Their community mechanics training program imparts essential mechanical and bike industry knowledge – equipping individuals for careers in the cycling industry. They also offer bicycle mechanic development nights including Thursday night BikePOC & Queer Night. Here, everyone has a safe and inclusive space to hone their skills and take ownership of their bikes and keep them running.

Local Donation

Working Bikes channels local generosity through two vital programs. First, there’s Cycle of Power, which targets adults in need by providing affordable transportation to homeless and immigrant communities. Next is Cycle of Peace, a youth-focused initiative. Here, underserved children gain access to bikes, learning to ride and navigate the city. These programs operate through local social services, schools, churches, and neighborhood groups. In 2022, over 1,600 bikes found their way back into the community - a testament to the power of wheels and goodwill.

International Bike Projects

In 2022, Working Bikes loading over 7,000 bikes into 16 shipping containers, destined to aid partner bike projects in Africa and Central America. This program not only helps communities worldwide gain better access to bicycle transportation, a number of these bikes find their way to programs similar to Working Bikes’ – places that also nurture job skills and mechanical expertise within communities. You can see the full history of this program and its impact here:

Working Bikes stands as an incredible asset, not only to the Chicagoland area but also to improving access to bicycles around the world. Beyond their full-time staff, a remarkable 521 volunteers clocking in over 6,000 hours make the local and global impact happen. As a fellow advocate for sustainable transportation, Planet Bike proudly supports Working Bikes through our annual advocacy giving through the 1% for the Planet program.