Eastvan Kickstand is a co-operative space that departs from the for-profit bike shop norm. Focused on learning, socializing, and “demystifying the bicycle”, the space offers services such as bike theme movie nights, Friday night social rides, and drop-in hours where you can learn to fix up or even build your very own bike.
“We’re a community resource,” co-founder George Rahi says. “People should come by if they’re interested in group rides, learning about mechanics, or just being part of Vancouver’s cycling community.”
Before starting Kickstand, Rahi was studying geography at UBC and “getting interested in transportation.” The school’s Bike Kitchen was a big influence on how Kickstand is run today.
Rahi says that he has seen a definite expansion in the way the average person views bicycling. “The trends are definitely upward for people who cycle as a means of commuting,” he tells me. “That’s exciting for us, because more than seeing a bike as just a sport, a thing for recreation, we want to promote cycling as a means of transportation that’s economical, fun, and easy.”
Opened in September 2012 in the basement of the Astorino’s building at Commercial and Venables, Kickstand operates as a program of Britannia Community Centre and is working towards one day functioning as its own co-operative. After the building was sold three years ago and the new owners proposed a redevelopment and teardown, the community centre stepped in, seeing the building as an opportunity for more community space. The building now houses the bike shop as well as Astorino’s ballroom, used for events by groups such as the Safe Amplification society.
A completely volunteer-run effort, Kickstand now has a large enough staff base to allow drop-in hours four days a week from 4 to 8 p.m. If they need to use the shop’s tools, attendees pay per hour on a sliding scale, from just five to 15 dollars an hour. The rate of pay depends on how much help you need – 15 dollars would cover one-on-one assistance, while somebody who just needs space and tools to carry out work they’re already familiar with would pay the lower end.
In addition to people volunteering their time, Rahi says that the space has been “running on the generosity of people donating their old bikes.” The bikes can either be dismantled for their parts, or refurbished by customers into a new, custom ride. “If people see one that’s not finished, we can help them build it,” he says.
“It was a little chaotic at first, just this huge empty basement…that filled up with donations really quickly,” he goes on. “It was a challenge to keep that up as a volunteer-run organization.”
Rahi says that the focus is on empowering people to work on their own vehicles. “When someone comes in for the first time, we give them a quick intro, and put the emphasis on the individual actually doing the labor involved,” he says. “The community part is really foundational.”
With transportation that’s both planet- and wallet-friendly becoming a more important topic in today’s world, it’s wonderful to see organizations like Kickstand making biking into an even more accessible and collaborative pursuit, taking the focus away from profit and commercialism and towards learning, co-operation, and community. It seems only natural for cycling, already imbued with a do-it-yourself spirit, to organically bring people together.
Find Eastvan Kickstand on Facebook or on their website, eastvankickstand.org.
By Genevieve Michaels