In the Fall of 2014, The Pedaler was having casual meetings with Velofix, an amazing full service mobile bike shop operating out of specialty vans. These conversations led to The Pedaler and Velofix creating a program we are proud to be a part of today. As two relatively new businesses in both the cycling and the business community of Victoria, The Pedaler and Velofix felt a strong urge to give back in some way. The reality of being a small, new business is that financial margins can be tight, so we opted instead to give back with our time rather than money.
We saw the number of people in need in Victoria that ride around the city with bicycles that are in rough shape, unable to stop, and just unsafe. We were very impressed with the amazing ways people managed to cobble together pieces of their bikes in order to keep them on the road. Together with Velofix, we hatched the idea of a bi-annual bicycle maintenance program at Our Place Society. Our Place is an inner-city community centre that provides services for the most vulnerable members of Victoria’s population, including the working poor, mentally and physically challenged, and the homeless.
We had worked with Our Place previously; to celebrate The Pedaler’s first anniversary, the owners “bought breakfast” for the people at Our Place – a program they host in which a group or business pays for the food and have staff members volunteer to serve and clean up afterwards. Our bike tours have a culinary bent and we thought the best way to celebrate our little business’ anniversary was to provide breakfast for those less fortunate in our community.
The bike maintenance program quickly morphed into a regular event happening every month or two. We eventually incorporated help from other groups around the city including Fairfield Bicycle Shop, Mac’s Cycle Centre and Tripleshot Cycling. We set up with the Velofix van (a great home-base!) at Our Place Society for 2 or 3 hours, typically servicing 20-30 bikes for those in need. While our mechanical skills are certainly tested working on these bikes, the rewards are pretty great. For many, a working bicycle is the difference between getting and keeping a job or not.
Our mechanical volunteers benefit as well. Fixing bikes with whatever is available and solving seemingly impossible mechanical problems tests and develops any bike mechanic’s skills. Our volunteers work under any and all weather conditions. They are also given an opportunity to meet people they wouldn’t usually meet, hear their stories, and are given a better understanding of the challenges people are facing.
Ultimately, the program at Our Place has been an opportunity for The Pedaler, Velofix and our other partners to give back to an amazing community that has been endlessly supportive of our business!