For many people, cycling goes beyond simply pedalling from point A to point B. It offers a sense of community, well-being and environmental responsibility. For Chris and Laura Grant, it changed their lives.
The couple met cycling to work on a January morning 11 years ago and have been together ever since. They love cycling and want to share that love with others in the community. And after a few sketchy encounters while trying to buy or sell bikes online, they sought out a better system.
“We sat down at the kitchen table and thought ‘how do we make a safe venue to sell or buy a bike?’ So we started Alberta Bike Swap,” says Laura Grant, founder.
Since its genesis in 2011, the couple has turned this idea into huge one-day events in five cities that offer a safer, more convenient way to get bikes into the hands of those who need and want them.
The event has grown exponentially across the province, with hundreds of bikes available for purchase and dozens of volunteers to run it. The Calgary event is May 6 at City Centre Parkade, 340-10 Avenue SW, with events running between April 28 and May 13 in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Edmonton.
“Our events are very large and we are chronically short of bikes. We have 12 to 15 buyers per bike and thousands of buyers. It really is a seller’s market,” says Laura. Part of the event’s attraction is motivated sellers.
The founders are hoping to attract more attention – and more bikes – to this year’s event. Between property management companies that have abandoned bikes locked up at their properties to families with overflowing garages, the Grants are looking forward to offering more bikes for sale and more donations. They hope to help out Albertans in these tough economic times and ease transportation challenges.
It’s a great system. Buyers know a volunteer technician has inspected each bike and the serial number has been recorded, affording them peace of mind. Police and RCMP have seized bikes from pawn shops and online sales based on Alberta Bike Swap paperwork. Bikes that don’t make the cut go back home, or if they are donated may be relegated to an “as-is” rack, which is great for handy cyclists looking for a fixer-upper, and that money is directly donated to a local group.
And sellers know, for a small fee, their bike will be sold hassle-free. The Grants help to determine a fair price, host and do all the background work for the swaps, and send sellers a cheque when it’s over. They charge only a $15 fee to register the bike ($10 if sellers are AMA members) and withhold 13 per cent of the sale price, half of which goes to funding safe cycling programs and the other half to running the event the following year. But much of the event is funded by the Grants.
The swap accepts donated bikes as well. The $2 admission to the event is allocated to a non-profit group to fix up these donated bikes and get them back into the community.
“We’re known for our bike events, but what we’re about is cycling safety,” says Chris Grant.
They support cycling education and safety programs and have produced 33,000 safe cycling cards. They are business card sized and display rules of the road as well as a place to record information in case of an incident. The Grants also have bike racks that events and festivals can borrow to help encourage alternative transportation, and these bike racks are used nearly every weekend.
From bike safety and donations to racks and a new ride, Alberta Bike Swap is keeping bikes on the road and people pedalling.