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How a Utah bike shop helps refugees, charities and the community

SHARE How a Utah bike shop helps refugees, charities and the community

Members of the Bicycle Collective believe that, more than being just fun, bikes promote stability and independence. A Utah-based company located in Salt Lake City, Ogden and Provo, its mission states that cycling is the cornerstone of a “cleaner, healthier and safer society.”

The Bicycle Collective is a nonprofit organization that, in addition to selling bicycles, recycles refurbished bikes for refugees, charities, veterans and others in need.

"Oftentimes these people, because of the bike that they get, they’re able to find jobs and secure an apartment for themselves because they have a stable income," said Austin Taylor, director of the Provo Bicycle Collective.

The Bicycle Collective partners with other nonprofit organizations that identify clients who need bikes, according to Clint Watson, the Bicycle Collective's executive director.

"We partner with organizations that work with kids, especially that come from lower income families," said Danielle Fry, director of the Ogden Bicycle Collective. "They’ll identify kids and refer them to us, and we’ll give kids bikes away to them."

The charitable organizations work with people who need independence and self-sufficiency, Taylor said.

"Essentially, we rely a lot on other organizations that are doing good work to identify the people who need the bikes, and then we just provide them," Watson said. "We don’t care where you come from. As long as someone is vouching for your economic need, then we’ll provide a bike for you."

According to Watson, the company was founded in Salt Lake City in 2002 by Jason Bultman, Jonathan Morrison and Brian Price. Bultman is still an emeritus member on the Collective’s board and Morrison went on to become the first executive director.

"Bikes can be kind of expensive if you’re buying from a bike shop, so they formed it to create a space where people could donate bikes that they’re not using anymore," Watson said. "We could repurpose them and give them back out, all under a nonprofit model."

A majority of bikes the Collective gives away come from people who have old bikes they don't use. The organization also teams with police departments to collect confiscated bikes that are unclaimed, and local landfills that set aside bikes.

"I think last year, overall, we received about 5,000 bicycles in donations and, of those, we sold about 2,200," Watson said. "That money allowed us to give away about 1,400 bikes to kids in need and about 700 bikes to adults in need."

Along with donating bicycles, the Bicycle Collective offers educational programs to teach about bicycle maintenance.

"For education, we do an open-shop program, where people are able to come in, fix their own bikes with the tools we have, and it’s just $10 per hour to do that, and they get help with a mechanic along the way," Taylor said.

According to Fry, education is an important part of the organization's mission.

"We like to be an educational shop, so when people come in to do bike repairs, we actually have them do as much of the work as possible, and we’re there to guide them through it," she said.

The revenue, from bikes people buy, is invested into the business and educational programs, allowing the Bicycle Collective to give bikes to those in need, according to Watson. The shop also holds classes for kids.

"Kids will come, we’ll train them on basic mechanic skills on the bicycle, and then give them a free bike at the end," Taylor said.

Watson believes the biggest change the Bicycle Collective will see over the next five years is expansion as it looks for a location in St. George.

He said bicycles reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and are great for public health.

"There are so many different reasons why bicycles are going to be part of a multifaceted solution to transportation in the future, that I think that what we’re doing is addressing that problem head-on," Watson said. "We’re not trying to make money on this. We’re trying to make sure that, as many people as we can put on bikes as possible, are going to get the bikes they need to do that."