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Southwest Rides gets rolling with Indiegogo campaign to help provide bicycles in Southwest Detroit

Two girls fixing bikes at Southwest Rides in Detroit

What impact can a bike shop really have?

Turns out, it could be a lot. No, we’re not talking about Midtown or the middle of Royal Oak. Those areas have things like this. We’re talking about the heart of an area in Southwest Detroit where more than 20% of the people living there don’t have access to a private vehicle. Access, by the way, doesn’t mean own. Many times, people are sharing cars and trying to make it work.

Teaching kids to fix bikes at Southwest Rides in DetroitSee, as strange as it may sound to residents of a motor city metropolis, there are people in Southwest Detroit who actually use bikes as their primary mode of transportation. In the intended service area of 40,000 people there’s nowhere to go to repair or buy a bike. So, perfectly good bikes sit idle due to something as simple as a flat tire, and other folks are riding rickety ones in need of repair.

Enter the Southwest Rides bike shop. It’s part of Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, a 501c3 non-profit that’s been serving the area for about 15 years. UNI’s believes the neighborhood is the basic building block of a successful city.

“Southwest Detroit is one of the bike-friendliest places in the city. It’s dense, built to human-scale and has an abundance of bike lanes,” says Jon Barth, fund development coordinator UNI Detroit. “Unfortunately, the nearest bike shop is impossibly far away, especially for residents who don’t drive. To put it simply Southwest Rides will fill a very noticeable hole for the entire Southwest Detroit community,”

To fill that gap Southwest Rides needs dollars and has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds. The money will be used to lease space and buy the necessary inventory. The goal is to be a sustainable operation from that point forward. Their team, mostly comprised of volunteers, has committed to at least one year of giving this a go.

Fixing bikes outside of the garageWhat if you can’t afford a bike, a real issue in a neighborhood like this? Well, there’s an earn-a-bike program for that.

“Kids who do not own a bike can earn a bike through working in the shop,” said Isaac Gilman, Southwest Rides planning committee member and a Challenge Detroit participant. “They can either spend time working on the bike they would like to earn, or they can help out on other people’s bikes.”

This helps the kids stay active during the summer, and Southwest Bikes will properly train them how to ride safely around the neighborhood.

“We even take them on at least one ride per summer that utilizes the West Vernor bike lanes,” said Gilman. “We ride from the UNI Center to Clark Park and back. It is usually one of the kids most favorite parts of the summer.”

Does this project fix every ill the city has? No. No single project will. But it does make a dent and, in the way, these folks know how to contribute best.

If you’re interested in contributing yourself, hit the button below. There are a bunch of offers for supporters. They’re trying to raise $18,000 by April 30. They could use a donation to help them reach their goal and keep rolling.

If you don’t have coin to spare or just want to get your hands into the work, volunteer days are April 27, May 4, 11 and 18.

Contribute to Southwest Rides on Indiegogo

Bikes at southwest rides

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