Honor Award – Innovation/Creative Partnerships & Collaborations: The Bike Depot

Collaborating for Healthy Outcomes: Lowering the barriers to riding a bike.

By: Ryan Schutz, MURP, Bike Depot Executive Director

The seeds of the Bike Depot project were planted in the mid-1990s when a group of residents created the Park Hill Bike Club. They nted to provide neighborhood youth with alternatives to gang involvement and substance abuse while providing recreational, educational and employment opportunities for neighborhood youth in an atmosphere of friendship, mutual respect and diversity. Financial challenges led the Park Hill Bike Club to cease operations in 2001, but locals never gave up on the dream of a bicycling center in North Park Hill.
The bike club idea was revived in 2005 when LiveWell Colorado’s Park Hill Thriving Communities, funded by Kaiser Permanente, asked the neighborhood what would help lessen health disparities that plague Park Hill. A series of surveys and listening sessions identified the need for access to fresh foods, safe parks for active recreation, and a community bike shop to support bicycle riding. This resulted in workgroups committed to each need and positive outcomes for each workgroup. These successes include the reconstruction of City of Axum Park, the introduction of fresh foods at a local Walgreens, and the creation of a community bike shop.

LiveWell Colorado and Park Hill Thriving Communities led the process to create the community bike shop. The first step included organizing community leaders and forging important partnerships. Community stakeholders (many from the original Park Hill Bike Club) partnered with RTD, the Denver City Bike Planner, local business representatives, Denver Parks and Recreation, and other community groups to create a vision for the organization and cultivate the resources necessary to launch a nonprofit bike shop with services and products targeted to the surrounding community. A business model was created in the image of the thrift store industry, utilizing donated goods and volunteer hours to provide low-cost access to bikes and bicycling accessories while generating revenue to fund education and outreach programming. Together, the community bike shop’s retail operation and programming would provide access to bikes for those in need and the education to keep those bikes rolling. RTD and local organizations committed to donating bikes in support of the effort while Kaiser Permanente, through Park Hill Thriving Communities, provided the investment funding to launch the Park Hill Bike Depot in spring of 2008.

In just six years, Bike Depot has grown from an intermittently open workshop space with Fix Your Bike and Earn A Bike programs to a professionally staffed full service bike shop that offers tools, workspace, classes, parts and community while refurbishing and redistributing over 1,500 donated bikes back to the community annually. Bike Depot, largely through the support of 9,000 volunteer hours, helped over 4,000 individuals from age six to seventy-eight keep their bikes rolling in 2013.

Recent market research by Bike Depot indicates that their programs meet only 30%-40% of current demand and draw participants from throughout the Denver/Lakewood/Aurora MSA. Having reached operational capacity at its original location in North Park Hill, Bike Depot has launched an initiative to open new locations in communities of need every year for the next five years. Bike Depot’s next neighborhood location will open in partnership with the Denver Housing Authority at La Mariposa, an innovative and nationally recognized public housing project south of downtown Denver in the neighborhood of La Alma/Lincoln Park, in October of 2015. Once again, Kaiser Permanente will be working with Bike Depot to create partnerships and cultivate the initial investment necessary to expand this proven model for putting people on bikes and giving them the skills to keep those bikes rolling. Together, Kaiser Permanente and Bike Depot will facilitate a cultural shift to biking in the Denver region through access, education, and community.



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