Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reflections from BikeBike!

By Jason

Last week, I had the privilege to travel out to San Francisco, California for BikeBike – the national conference of community bicycle collectives and cooperatives. I was not there as a Hub representative – I was there mainly for Sibley Bike Depot (www.bikeped.org), a not-for-profit community bike program in St. Paul. However, the experience was insightful and relevant to our work here at the Hub as a worker-owned bicycle cooperative trying to promote bicycling within our community.

While at the conference in San Fran, I was able to take a tour of Box Dog Bikes, a worker-owned bike shop in the Mission district. Like the Hub, they are a fairly new shop – opening four years ago. They employ eight people: Five are worker-owners, two are on the path towards ownership, and one is only part-time. (Compare this to the Hub, where we have seven worker-owners and, during Spring/Summer, over 30 workers!) Their space is significantly smaller – roughly the size of our West Bank location. I think retail space is way more expensive in the dense, overpriced market of San Francisco.

Another interesting point: Box Dog Bikes formed with significant influence from people who were volunteer mechanics at the Bike Kitchen, San Francisco’s collectively run community bike shop. The Hub had a similar experience, with the original coop founders being mechanics at the Grease Pit who wanted to both receive monetary compensation for their work, as well as expand their ability to promote bicycling in our community.

And other exciting news: BikeBike 2009 is coming to Minneapolis! Keep an eye out around August/September for hundreds of community bike shop enthusiasts from around the country to descend upon our fair city to converse, share, and organize stories on how to better promote bicycling. The Hub hopes to have a role in discussing the ways that volunteer collectives and worker-owned shops can work together to promote bicycling as a sustainable means of transportation in our community!

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