The short series of photographs capture a community of bicyclists. Broken, floating and chaotic tires mingle with people’s faces and hands as they work to repair the bikes. Carrboro resident Lauren Waterman’s new black and white photography exhibit stands out starkly against the bright yellow walls of Carrburritos, a Mexican restaurant in Carrboro. Her work documents the beauty of the ReCYCLEry, which faces eviction on claims of being an eyesore. The ReCYCLEry is a completely volunteer, community organization based in Carrboro that teaches community members to fix their own bikes, rebuild bicycles from donated bikes, and maintain their equipment. Since its founding in 2000, the organization has rebuilt more than 500 donated bicycles in the small barn and back yard of a rental property on Hannah Street. But when the property’s Durham-based rental management company, Real Estate Associates Incorporated, recently visited the property, it asked the organization to move out.
“They asked us to pack up our bags and leave,” says Travis Moose, a long-time ReCYCLEry volunteer. “They weren’t interested in finding out who we are and what we do.”
“To put it simply,” says Chris Richmond, who has been a volunteer for three years, “they just don’t want us there.”
According to Moose, the six founding members received permission to work out of the rental property, where the project has been based since its inception. But, instead of fighting the property managers, who say they were unaware that the ReCYCLEry was operating on their land, the organization has decided to look for a new location for their workshop.
John Bowden, director of residential leasing at Real Estate Associates, says the ReCYCLEry violates the renters’ leases, which state that the property can only be used for residential purposes. Because the ReCYCLEry does not have a lease with the company, Real Estate Associates is holding the renters responsible for ReCYCLEry’s timely eviction. He said the company gave the renters notice five months ago that the ReCYCLEry would have to move out.
“It is unsightly having that many bicycles taking up a big part of the back yard,” Bowden said. He also said the organization poses serious liability concerns.
Next to Waterman’s 11 photographs, Moose posted a flyer entitled, “The ReCYCLEry Needs Your Help!”
“I hope this (exhibit) opens up a dialogue with members of our community to help us find a more sustainable place to do our operations and improve and expand what we already do in the community,” Moose said.
Every Saturday, an array of community members gather at the ReCYCLEry to work in exchange for access to tools and teaching. People help clean bicycles and put other people’s bikes together in exchange for help with their own projects. Each newly repaired bicycle is marked with a sticker that says, “Brought back from the dead by the ReCYCLEry.”
“My favorite part of working there is when someone needs a bike and we can help them,” Moose said. “They find a bike and love it immediately and start cleaning and fixing the parts.”
In addition to on-site work, the organization also has traveled to help meet the needs of the community. In 2001, the ReCYCLEry visited a group home in Carrboro and fixed all of the residents’ bikes. The organization also has donated a handful of bicycles to younger children at an after-school program. In addition, the organization is planning to teach a class on bicycle stewardship to elementary school children in the fall. Expanding these “mobile projects” is one of the group’s primary goals.
But instead of pursing these goals, the ReCYCLEry will be shutting down for the winter in order to focus its attention on finding a new operation site in Chapel Hill or Carrboro that has a roof, walls and a bicycle-accessible location.
“I envision a rural location for storage and then an in-town location is necessary because folks need to be able to bike or walk to the workshop,” Richmond said.
The ReCYCLEry hopes that Waterman’s photography exhibit will be the first step to meet these goals. “When I found out I could hang my pictures I freaked out,” Waterman said. “It’s Carrboro and Carburritos and it’s such a bike town. It’s perfect.”
To help or for more information, e-mail the ReCYCLEry at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Chris at 932-1335. The ReCYCLEry is looking in Carrboro or Chapel Hill for a bicycle-accessible location that is under-used or can be used as a 501(c)3 tax-deductible donation.