Fix Is in: Fighting Poverty One Bike at a Time

A Haitian man hauling bikes by wheelbarrow
A Haitian man hauling bikes by wheelbarrow
Flickr User: Mike O'C

After a few minutes of speaking with small business entrepreneur Jason Deal, one begins to detect another layer of meaning in the name of his soon-to-open shop, The Bicycle Fix, coming next month to 2595 North Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.

Specifically, that Deal's shop will not just be a place for one to literally get his bike fixed, or for a bike addict to figuratively get his "fix," but that in some small way the shop is aiming to fix some of what's broken in society. With bikes.

It's a more grandiose mission then ever Deal would admit -- the 29-year-old, who has been fixing bikes since he was a teenager, has not really been promoting his shop's humanitarian cause. He's been more concerned with the fine legal points of opening a for-profit business at the same time as nonprofit organization.

The idea grew out of Deal's past work as a bike assembly contractor for WalMart stores in South Florida. He discovered that the retail giant had been trashing most of the bikes that were returned to its stores due to damage. "They were too expensive to ship back to the manufacturer, and they were expensive to throw in a Dumpster because they take up so much room," he explains. A mechanic who couldn't stand to see good parts junked, Deal asked stores if he could have the bikes.

Easy come. Easy go. Deal plans to give most of those refurbished bikes to disadvantaged kids, both here and in Haiti.

It's all in flux until Deal gets his 501(c)(3) back from the IRS, but the plan is to invite school-aged kids to an after-school program in which they fix bikes. "The children involved will earn a bike for their efforts -- and some skills along the way," says Deal. He's talking to a Boys and Girls Club that would participate. The nonprofit, called "The Worldwide Bicycle Fix," would be located either in the space next to Deal's for-profit shop or at a warehouse near Dixie Highway and Commercial Boulevard.

For every 100 damaged bikes donated, Deal estimates that he and and his young volunteers will be able to build 60 bikes that are good as new. There will be too many for them to all go to local kids, so Deal has already talked to other charitable groups like Jehovah's Witness, which ships containers of supplies to impoverished people in Haiti. There's room in those containers for bikes.

Another portion of the donated bikes will be sold in The Bicycle Fix, with the profits going toward the charitable cause.

Not that Deal doesn't have a (slight) ulterior motive. Though he's quick to say he's not a bike freak -- that he's not crazy enough to live in South Florida without a car -- Deal simply wants to give local bike culture a boost. "The good works side of it has benefits for me," says Deal. "I'm a cycling enthusiast, and I wish more people rode bikes. I seem them as a healthy and efficient means of transportation."

His shop on North Federal will open in about three weeks.

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