116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa City Bike Library hasn't been spinning its wheels during the pandemic. COVID-19 has put some classes and programming on pause, but it's pumped up other aspects of the organization, from an increase in demand for bike loans to an increase in square footage.
The nonprofit bicycle lending service, established in 2004, has rolled through several locations, but at the end of February, made its final ride from 700 S. Dubuque St. into its new, permanent location at 1222 S. Gilbert Ct.
'We're in the middle of a big transition,” said director Audrey Wiedemeier, 35, of Iowa City. 'We bought a building, after 16 years. We're entering a new bicycle frontier and for a small nonprofit, it's a big, big step for us.”
A step they took in the coldest month of the winter - so they could be prepared for the spring rush from commuters and families to students and people just wanting to give cycling a try.
'We needed to be able to check out bikes by March 1, so in 20 days we moved a 5,000-square-foot shop,” she said. 'We had negative-14 degree days where 14 volunteers would show up and load trailers and trucks and move things into the back of our new shop, while the front of our new shop was being remodeled. So we called the month of February ‘The Final Drag.'
'We've moved around, taking refuge in whatever place we could the last 16 years, and now we finally have a forever home,” she said.
'Although we started out as a completely volunteer-run organization, we do have three staff members now, but we're still predominantly volunteer-run. And it's the volunteers who showed up for us in the in the deep, dark winter that we had, to make sure that the Iowa City metro area community had access to affordable, quality bicycle transportation.”
The new site has 7,000 square feet, purchased for $400,000 from Jacob and Heather Moore, who own Advanced Electric across the street, Wiedemeir said.
'We've been saving for a down payment for over a decade. All the volunteers, patrons and donors who have supported us have gotten us to this point,” she noted, adding that in May, the group hopes to launch a capital campaign to further support its mission.
The library has outgrown its previous locations, and the new site will accommodate bike donations and rentals of commuter and kids' bikes, another 300 to 500 as-is bikes for sale, classes, a repair shop and workbenches bikers will be able to use to fix their own bikes. Repairs are a big part of the library's work, since it not only accepts donations of used, workable bikes, but also bikes that no longer are road-worthy, but might have parts that can be used to rebuild or repair other bicycles.
'It seems like a big building, but bikes need that much space,” Wiedemeir said. 'People need that much space to really experience everything that a bicycle has to offer them in their life. If you think about what cars do for us, we all drive cars. Most of us have a car, and what kind of access does that give someone?
'The bike can give people the same amount of access, I believe, but in a different way. Reconnecting with nature is one really big thing for me. Being able to connect with nature every day on your daily commute is very, very powerful. Making the switch from driving two miles to biking two miles doesn't sound like a lot, but it gives you the opportunity to do something good for your body, good for your environment, good for your community.”
At a Glance
' What: Iowa City Bike Library
' Where: New location, 1222 S. Gilbert Ct., Iowa City
' When: Various hours Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; schedule at icbikelibrary.org/book-an-appointment.html
' Services: Repair donated bikes and check them out to the public for up to six months; $50 to $300 deposit; if returned in good condition, deposit returned minus a $50 processing fee and damage to the bicycle, if any; or patrons can keep the bike and forfeit the deposit; also offering high-end and as-is bikes for sale
' Details: icbikelibrary.org/
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