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Construction workers drilled into the sidewalk on Tuesday afternoon as they prepared to install bicycle racks in front of the cavernous 19,058 square-foot building in Salt Lake City’s Central 9th neighborhood.
Inside the new building at 325 West 900 South, volunteers for the Bicycle Collective unpacked boxes, prepared displays for dozens of cycling shoes and generally scrambled to get ready for their soft launch on Wednesday, Nov. 29.
Donna Matturro McAleer, executive director of the Bicycle Collective, was thrilled about the new space, which serves as the statewide nonprofits’ hub (the organization also has locations in Ogden, Provo, and St. George). Bicycle Collective’s old Salt Lake City location spanned less than 3,000 square-feet and was cramped and leased.
With rents across the valley rising, the agency’s board started planning in 2017 for a more permanent and spacious home. A year later, following a competitive bid process, Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency awarded the lot on 900 South between 300 and 400 West to the Bicycle Collective. Last October, they finally broke ground.
“Our mission is transportation equity,” Matturro McAleer said, “to provide self-reliant and independent transportation to people in need.”
The new space will sell spare parts and refurbished bicycles. It will be a community gathering space and learning center for cycling recreationists and commuters alike.
The nearly completed 9-line trail runs past the collective’s door and three different TRAX lines stop in the neighborhood. With three breweries, coffee shops, and the Jordan River Trail all within walking or biking distance, people are already starting to poke their heads into the building.
The Bicycle Collective will cement Central Ninth’s status as Salt Lake City’s alternative transportation heaven.
The nonprofit’s mission
“I really wanted to combine my passion of making an impact in my community with environmental consciousness and sport,” Matturro McAleer said. At the Bicycle Collective, she is able to do that by providing bicycles to those who need them, and help keep old bikes out of landfills.
When donated bikes come in, volunteer mechanics “triage” them and figure out whether to fix them up to sell or provide them to people who need transportation, Matturro McAleer said.
The volunteer bicycle mechanics are “really the lifeblood of this organization,” Matturro McAleer said. One volunteer, Taki Truong, stopped in the workshop room to explain that he began working with the organization because he wanted to “give back to the community in my own unique way.”
“Our bread and butter is old, unwanted mountain bikes that we turn into commuter bikes,” explained Thomas Cooke, the organization’s digital strategist.
“They’re sturdy,” Matturro McAleer chimed in, “and they’re efficient.”
“They’re like the SUV of a bicycle,” Cooke said.
Classic road bikes with thin tires and down-tube shifters don’t make great commuters, but there are people willing to spend money on them — which can then be used to provide more people in need with reliable, sturdy commuters.
Matturro McAleer explained that 70% of Bicycle Collective’s funds come from income earned through bicycle sales and modest fees charged to use workspace benches and tools.
A larger space and more community services
In the old Salt Lake City location, Bicycle Collective staff had to shut down the store to hold classes. The new site offers plenty of floor space to display refurbished bicycles while holding classes and meetings in upstairs rooms with iconic views of Salt Lake City’s skyline.
Matturro McAleer hopes to partner with other organizations to offer not just youth and adult bike mechanic programs, but “developing an accredited bike mechanic program so we can do some workforce training.”
Downstairs, there are workbenches, tools and bike stands for rent at $10 dollars an hour. Novice tinkerers can ask experienced staff for help and guidance.
Employees, most of whom commute by bike, have a storage room to park their wheels, lockers and a shower for particularly strenuous rides to work.
With more space, the Bicycle Collective will be able to sell more pre-owned cycling gear like jerseys or bibs, too.
The collective plans to host a grand opening party sometime in the spring — when all the boxes are officially unpacked.
Until then, those looking for hearty commuting bikes or nostalgia-inducing three-speed steel frames can drop in from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.