Over the summer you may have noticed some changes going on at 1075 W. Broad St., the old service station across from our dearly departed Dairy Queen. What was the original Heyward Allen Plymouth dealership in the 1950s, and in the 1970s was a foreign car repair garage managed by a young Al Davison, Athens’ former First Dude, is now a center of bicycle-related advocacy, service, education and commerce.
After about 10 years bouncing around in the Chase Park Warehouses, BikeAthens has moved its Bike Recycling Program into this old auto garage. The move allowed the BRP to double its workshop area, with enough space left over for a sales showroom and, for the first time, a real office for Executive Director Tyler Dewey.
He shares the office with Elliott Caldwell, complete streets coordinator for Georgia Bikes, as well as Kristen Baskin of Let Us Compost, which has a growing fleet of bicycle-riding food-scrap collectors to handle some of the company’s in-town routes. Tucked into the other end of the building is Pedal Driven Cycles, a welding business owned by renowned bicycle frame builder David Harrison.
BikeAthens’ mission is “to make walking, cycling and public transit an everyday solution to transportation needs in Athens through education, advocacy and community service,” and since 2003 the Bike Recycling Program has been the primary service arm of the organization. Volunteers refurbish bikes donated by the public and re-donate them through local social service agencies to people who need them for transportation to work or school.
In November and December they shift to kids’ bikes for families in need of gifts for their children. Some of the refurbished bikes, as well as used and vintage parts and accessories, are sold to cover operating costs.
Volunteer shop manager Scott Long is excited about the new space.
“I’d like to say how proud we are of all the hard work we put into the new space over the long, hot summer,” he says. “At our old location, there wasn’t enough room to set up all of our work stations, and things started to get tight if you had more than six people working on bikes. Now that we have a central location with tons of space, we are starting to move forward with a renewed vision towards service to our community.”
The people served by the Bike Recycling Program ride a bike—any bike—because it is their only option to get where they need to go. Long wants to make sure they have the safest ride possible.
“The fastest way to help someone climb out of poverty is to give them access to affordable transportation,” he says. “We are really good at providing people in need with a bike, a helmet and lights. That will continue to be a part of our mission.”
The new space is large and flexible enough to double as an event space, says Dewey.
“Primarily, the new space is a huge boon because it allows us to be more productive and refurbish more bikes,” he says. “But it also allows us to expand our programming to provide more educational opportunities and host more social gatherings.”
For example, BikeAthens recently teamed with Georgia Bikes! to offer an all-day Traffic Safety 101 course for 13 participants, and it plans to offer shorter courses in the near future.
“For the first time, we are going to have to expand our imaginations to fit the space, rather than the other way around,” Dewey says.
BikeAthens now has the ability to offer Thursday evening “Fix Your Own Bike” sessions, Long says, where the public can use the shop in exchange for a suggested donation.
But perhaps more notably, the shop’s popular fall and spring bike sales will no longer happen.
“We have turned nearly a third of our new shop into a retail space, and we are selling bikes, parts and accessories every week now,” he says. “People seem to be very happy with our prices, and when they buy from us, they know the money is going to help pay our rent and help keep our programs going.”
Jason Perry has volunteered at the shop since 2008, and served on the BikeAthens board of directors from 2008–2012 and just re-joined last month.
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