Written by Allison Smith, Thrive
The Goodlife Community Bike shop is a local non-profit housed in the buzzing Kensington community. GLB strives for sustainability by offering reconditioned/recycled bikes, bike repair resources and training workshops. The space doubles as a community meeting place, where GoodLife continues to build strong community relationships and to support a growing Calgary cycling community.
I had the opportunity to tour GLB with long time volunteer Steve Loo. Steve has been a Calgary commuter since 2003, and credits GLB for keeping him connected to the city’s bike commuter network. He is such a loyal biker that he barely keeps an eye on gas prices anymore!
The shop was founded in 2003 by Jackie Mann and John Barrett. Since then, they have developed a strong biking community that supports eco-friendly businesses and transportation. To help support the Calgary economy the shop fully accepts Calgary dollars. In addition, they partner with other Calgary like-minded organizations to provide meaningful community programs. For example, the Earn-a-Bike program teaches youth about bike mechanics, team leadership and group riding. Youth walk away with a bike, new friends and elevated self-confidence.
A strong community with loyal volunteers
I arrived at the shop just in time for opening duties. Patrons were already waiting outside the door to get their hands on some reconditioned bike pieces. Steve made his way to the loading dock where donated bikes can be dropped off during closed hours. He laughed at the large heaping pile of nearly 50 bikes that were dropped off that morning. “It’s been an incredible experience with people donating bikes quite regularly from their basements, backyards, church groups, or the drop-in center,” Steve said.
One of the morning patrons included a retired volunteer who was there to pick up a much needed bike piece. When he saw the backlog in donated bikes, he threw on an apron and started sorting. That was my first glimpse of the loyal, strong biking commuting that GLB has managed to build.
Once GLB receives a donated bike, the staff and volunteers take the bike to ‘bike triage’. Here, they try to fix it up and replace missing pieces. If the bike cannot be salvaged it’ll move on to the recycling pile. The reconditioned bikes can stay in the shop for as little as an hour or for up to a month. “There is a huge amount of diversity in bikes that come through here,” Steve said as he pointed out banana seats, vintage bikes, racing bikes, yellow frames, kids bikes, mountain bikes and more.
The shop has managed to thrive due to the hardworking founders, staff, volunteers and unconditional community support. The organization has over 6,000 members coming in and out of its’ doors.
Swapping time for a cycle.
To purchase a bike you need to become a member which is by donation. Then, bikes can be purchased and that money will be put towards operating costs. Alternatively, the bike can be earned. The shop never turns anyone away, allowing low-income individuals or anyone walking in off the street to earn their bike through volunteering time. One hour of volunteer time translates to $5 of store credit that can be used to buy parts or saved up for a bicycle. Steve said, “if a kid comes in and asks for a bike, it’s by donation, whatever they have….’ 25¢? alright cool!’”
“We make sure the bikes go to a good home,” Steve added. They ensure this by having members sign a form stating they will abide by GLB values of inclusion, community, sustainability and non-discrimination – regardless of ‘the tires they spin’.
Mutual relations with local businesses.
“Kensington has been great, the Sunnyside area is one of the most friendly for biking,” Steve commented when asked about the shop’s presence in the Kensington community. “Individuals come back and forth from the surrounding cycle shops. It’s pretty nice that way… they send customers to us and we send people to them,” he added.
Life hasn’t always been easy for the shop. A year ago the shop lost its’ home in Eau Claire Market. Now in Kensington, the shop has until the end of August to find a new home since the property is set for demolition to make room for condominums. They are currently searching for a new home, and are open to suggestions! “It’s been a spectacular ride so far,” Steve exclaimed in regards to life in Kensington.
Keeping decision making in the community.
To support collective decision making in the shop, GLB conducts Box Socials every second month. The Box Socials are consensus-based decision making open to all members whether they are a seasoned Good Lifer, or have never been to the shop before.
When I asked him why people keep coming back he said, “there’s a great social aspect and … people just like working on bikes, it’s an empowering feeling when you’re building your own transportation and using that to transport around the city…you’re providing your own fuel. That’s a great feeling!”
June has been declared bike month in YYC. To kick off the month long dedication, The City of Calgary has challenged Calgarians to bike to work for the week of June 2nd to June 8th. Be sure to pop by GoodLife Bikes to pick up a bicycle for the summer season!
To find out more about GoodLife Community Bike Shop programs, visit their website here: www.goodlifebikes.ca