When Ryan Volsen was in college he decided he didn’t want to drive a car. It seemed simple enough to just ride a bike. Soon he realized it would probably be beneficial for him – and the bike – if he knew a little bit more about bike maintenance.
“I was bike commuting and when I started I didn’t know anything about bikes,” said Volsen. “I figured I needed to know more about the machine I was riding, and how to fix it, if I was going to make it last, so I set about learning all I could.”
Today, Volsen is one of the main mechanics at Pedals2People, a Spokane-based nonprofit organization that has as its mission to get as many people on bikes as possible. On Friday Pedals2People is scheduled to have an open house and grand opening at its new location, a storefront on East Sprague Avenue.
“It’s a great space, we’ve never had a shop before and suddenly this all worked out,” said Beth Mort, vice president of the Pedals2People board. “We had a donated space in a small garage before and we started moving stuff in here in January.”
It’s possible to walk in and purchase a bike at Pedals2People, but it is not your usual bike shop.
“We like to think of this as a place to fix things, not just a place to purchase things,” said Volsen.
The shop has every tool needed to fix a bike and six bike stands – a handy contraption on which to hang a bike so it’s off the ground and easier to work on – and a big selection of parts.
For $5 an hour, cyclists can rent a stand, access to the tools and help from the group’s mechanics. “It’s a do-it-yourself community bike shop,” said Mort. “We want to help people get on bikes. We believe it’s empowering to have ownership of your own transportation.”
The bikes, frames and parts come from donations.
On Pedals2People’s Web site is a list of criteria that have to be fulfilled before a bike can be donated.
“All our bikes come from donations and we had to make some criteria as to what we can take and not take,” said Mort. “Some bikes we simply strip down for parts. The easiest way for people to find out if we’ll take the bike is to come by and show it to us.”
At this time, Pedals2People doesn’t accept children’s bikes. The store’s focus is on commuter bikes.
Pedals2People got started in 2002 and the original idea was to recycle bikes and give them away, but as Mort puts it, “that didn’t really pan out.”
Then the group shipped 300 used and repaired bikes to Ghana.
“That was a huge undertaking,” said Mort. “We were somewhat surprised by all the restrictions and the paperwork involved in that.”
The combination of a storefront and a lot of outreach activities – look for Pedals2People at community gatherings, markets and fairs – is much closer to what Mort and the other founders envisioned.
“When people come in to work on their bike, that really is the empowerment issue,” said Mort. “They own their own transportation and coming in here, they learn how to fix it. That’s what we want.”
Interested cyclists can also build their own bike, from the frame up with help from Pedals2People mechanics.
“We are seeing more and more people just come in and that’s really fun,” said Volsen. “It’s been crazy getting ready to open. And it’s cool to be on East Sprague.”