If you live in Kalamazoo there’s a TOAD in your backyard but it’s no amphibian. It's the TOAD Bicycle Cooperative in the Vine neighborhood where rusty chains and broken frames are dragged in and functional bikes glide out.
Sean Cleary helped start TOAD three years ago. He says, “It’s fifty percent working on bikes and helping people get on the road, and fifty percent doing big rides and having fun, and just having a party on wheels.”
TOAD’s goals are right in its acronym: Train people to fix their own bicycles and provide free access to tools; Organize community events; Assemble broken bikes for the community, and Disseminate information about bike safety for cyclists and drivers.
Cleary says TOAD also helps cyclists meet up and explore Kalamazoo from the seat of a bike. "Midnight underwear rides were like the big thing this summer, like 75 people riding around town on bikes in their underwear. Greatest time I think I’ve ever had in this town on bikes." Although TOAD is a nonprofit organization, it does charge for some bike repairs. Cleary says the money helps buy items the co-op needs to operate.
To many, bike riding is only something done on a sunny warm day but at TOAD, every day is a bike day. TOAD wheel specialist Macallister Armstrong says that means winter too.
TOAD runs out of the basement of Cleary’s home. The floor is covered with bicycle parts and tools are everywhere, hanging from nails and packed in boxes. But Cleary says he wouldn’t have it any other way.And Kalamazoo isn’t the only city with a TOAD living in its backyard. Cleary says the concept is spreading: “We have other branches of TOAD popping up in Greensboro North Carolina, Oklahoma City…that are just calling themselves TOAD because they like just the principle.”