Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective WANTS YOU!
October 2nd, 2008
How a local organization is changing downtown commuting by helping citizens get healthier and save money. Oh, yeah, and they do it for free.
-by Jonny Glines
Ready to Serve: The Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective --
Either you see them whizzing by as your vehicle idles in traffic, or maybe you're one of them, laughing as you pedal. There's a growing sub-group in Salt Lake City (SLC), and the followers want to help City residents save money, reduce stress, and essentially become healthier. The Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective is strong, and its members are ready to serve.
"Basically, we want to get more butts in more bike seats," said Jonathan Morrison, executive director of the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective.
Morrison says the mission of the Bicycle Collective is " ... to promote cycling as an effective and sustainable form of transportation and as a cornerstone of a cleaner, healthier, and safer society ... the Bicycle Collective provides refurbished bicycles and educational programs to the community, focusing on children and lower income households."
Since 2002, many local bicycle enthusiasts have been congregating and preaching bicycle riding as their gospel. The Bicycle Collective started with just five riders who sought to advocate the benefits of biking. Through volunteering and community service, many SLC residents converted from being four-wheel drivers to two-wheel riders. And, the fold is growing stronger everyday.
If the Bicycle Collective's description sounds religious, it's with intention. Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet with volunteers at The Bicycle Collective's "Valet Parking," located at the Downtown Farmers Market. I learned quickly that these people are no ordinary volunteers. Their passion for bike riding, and their dedication to their cause resemble a cult-like following.
Most volunteers I've come across maintain a noticeable undertone of resentment for working for free. maintaining a limit to how far they will go for their cause. The Bicycle Collective volunteers/followers shatter this perception.
I watched as a team of friendly, young adults spent last Saturday morning taking bikes from strangers and placing them alongside a grassy area, allowing the owners to go about their shopping unburdened and without worry for their bicycle. By the looks of the smiling faces and hacky-sac sessions, this Bicycle Collective could have easily been mistaken for a social club, rather than a volunteer group.
I listened to passionate arguments regarding cases in which bicyclists had been seriously injured and nearly killed by motorists due to negligence, or even malice. I was able to sneak in on the action and speak with a few of the individuals.
"We're all about getting bikes back into the community through recycling them and safety education," said Nicholas Nascimento, a volunteer and veteran.
The Bicycle Collective allows individuals an opportunity to donate used bikes; buy refurbished bikes at very low prices; or perform community service in exchange for a free, used bike. The Bicycle Collective also provides bikes for low-income households and refugee groups.
"I ride a 1981 Panasonic," said Nascimento. "It works great. Instead of paying $800 for a new bike, we provide the option for anyone to get a bike, regardless of how much money they have."
In addition to the "Earn-A-Bike" program, the Bicycle Collective offers a variety of bicycle safety classes and community service projects. Volunteers, along with the public, also enjoy weekly parties and special events, like the "Pedal Pusher Festival," which features cycling-themed screenings, performances by local bands, and track-stand competitions.
Few people know about the active role the Bicycle Collective plays in our community, but volunteers say they definitely notice the impact.
"A lot more people are biking, and I see a lot more safe riding in Salt Lake City," said Nascimento. "We give the same lessons that law enforcement officers give to the public. "The community already has a strong bike following. We're just keeping the wood on the fire," he said.
And it's a fire that is now ablaze. Every week, there are new volunteers to help. Some start their service in exchange for a new bike, but most continue with the Bicycle Collective for fun and the chance to give back to the community, even after they've completed their service requirement.
Jed Doame has been a volunteer for just five days. He heard about the Bicycle Collective while he was volunteering for "Red Fest" at the University of Utah.
"Yeah, it's true, I started volunteering to get a bike, but I'll continue even after I have my hours in," Doame said. "It's just a great way to serve and give back to the community."
Even as a new volunteer, Jed's passion for the Bicycle Collective's gospel was just as strong as that of the senior volunteers.
"The world would be so much better if everyone just biked more. We're having energy problems and obesity problems--they could all be solved by riding bicycles," said Doame.
Throughout the duration of my visit to the Downtown Farmers Market, I was able to observe the fruits of the volunteers' labors--no, not their free bicycles, but rather the smiles and expressions of appreciation on the faces of those who used their services.
Before I left, I spoke with two women who were chatting with volunteers as they picked up their bikes from the valet.
"Oh, they are so great," said Erin Clark. "You don't have to find a place to park, they take care of everything."
"We make sure we ride our bikes to come down here," said Jill Cowling. "(It's) just because of them."
I looked back at the volunteers who were listening in and smiling. They didn't say anything, and they didn't have to. To me, their facial expressions said it all-- "mission accomplished".
For more information about the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective, click the link below.
Stay tuned for an inspirational follow-up story regarding the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective's initiative to supply Utah refugees with free bicycles.
This piece is the seventh in Utah Stories ongoing Farmers Market series. Click here to visit our Farmers Market Stories main page.