Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective offers Community Bike Shop programs to west-side youth

Story and photo by CECELIA FENNELL

The University of Utah Community Bike Shop has a bike on the roof.

The Community Bike shop, located at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, offers tools and know-how for people to fix their bikes. In addition to providing basic bike repairs, The Community Bike Shop offers youth programs.

Middle-school aged students residing on the west side of Salt Lake City volunteer at this community bike shop and teach other children from that community how to fix and repair bikes. Students learn how to teach the children by taking classes taught by bicycle instructors from the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective, a nonprofit organization located at 2312 S. West Temple.

Thanks to University Neighborhood Partners of the University of Utah, the Community Bike Shop and the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective — two organizations with similar missions — were able to partner.

“Through this partnership, volunteer instructors from the collective teach student volunteers how to fix bikes,” said Sarah Munro, associate director of UNP.

According to its website, UNP’s mission  is to “redress historical inequity by understanding systematic barriers that have prevented access to higher education and to rewrite that history so residents of the west side see themselves as holders and creators of knowledge.” UNP serves as a bridge between organizations with similar goals and interests, Munro said.

The Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective was founded in April 2002 by five bicycle enthusiasts: Jonathan Morrison, Edward Whitney, Brenton Chu, Brian Price and Jesse Ratzkin. Its mission “is to promote cycling as an effective and sustainable form of transportation and as a cornerstone of a cleaner, healthier and safer society.” According to the website, the “Collective provides refurbished bicycles and educational programs to the community, focusing on children and lower income households.”

The Collective offers seven programs and services, two of which are youth programs for children living on Salt Lake City’s west side. One, Earn-A-Bike, helps kids learn bicycle mechanics and confidence.

“Kids get to come in, pick out a bike and they get to keep it. The catch is they have to take it all apart and put it back together themselves,” said Jonathan Morrison, executive director of the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective.

Bike mechanical skills aren’t the only skills learned through Earn-A-Bike. According to the Collective’s 2009 annual report, “In addition to learning bike mechanics, the children are mentored in time and resource management and many students become valuable mentors to their classmates.”

Morrison sees the impact his instruction has on his students, how it affects not only them, but also the kids they will teach.

“The best part was when they used their extra time and knowledge to become a peer-mentor,” Morrison said. “As an Earn-a-Bike instructor, those moments where the student becomes the teacher make it all worth it,” he said.

Another youth program, Trips for Kids, reconnects city youth with Utah’s mountains through mountain biking. Participants are able to take trips to Bonneville Shoreline Trail, the Mormon Pioneer Trail and Liberty Park with the help of adult and youth volunteers. According to the annual report, “Trips for Kids opens up the world of cycling to at-risk youth through mountain bike trips, which include lessons in personal responsibility, achievement, environmental awareness, practical skills and the simple act of having fun.”

Locations of the Bicycle Collective have extended to the Day-Riverside Library, the Ogden Bicycle Collective and the University of Utah community bike shop, located near the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Each location shares its volunteers and other nonfinancial resources. While services are limited to low-income youth and families on the west side, everyone is invited to volunteer. Students at the U may wish to volunteer at the campus bike shop.

For more information, call 801-FAT-BIKE (328-2453).