Broke Spoke shop celebrates 5 years of recycling unused bikes

September 13, 2015
Carl Vogel, right, measured the seat post tube of a high-end bicycle frame donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop held by Andy Shooner. The shop's mission is to refurbish old bikes for use as basic transportation for people who need it, so this frame likely will be sold to raise money for other bicycle parts. Photos by Tom Eblen

Carl Vogel, right, measured the seat post tube of a high-end racing bicycle frame donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop held by Andy Shooner. The shop’s mission is to refurbish old bikes for use as basic transportation for people who need it, so this frame likely will be sold to raise money for other bicycle parts. Photos by Tom Eblen

 

Five years ago, Lexington cyclists Brad Flowers, Shane Tedder and Tim Buckingham wanted to open a different kind of bicycle shop.

Lexington was well-served by commercial shops that sold new bikes and accessories and had mechanics on staff to make repairs. But they wanted to organize volunteers to refurbish old bikes — like the ones gathering dust in your garage — and get them to people who need them for affordable transportation.

Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop has accomplished many of those goals. And, thanks to community support and a dedicated group of volunteers, the mission keeps growing.

“It has exceeded our expectations,” Buckingham said. “There has always been a consistent stream of folks dropping in to help out. And the really committed volunteers are what keeps the shop going.”

Jessica Breen, a doctoral student in geography at the University of Kentucky, adjusts a derailleur on an old French 10-speed bike donated to Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop. Breen recently started a women-only volunteer night at the shop.

Jessica Breen, a doctoral student in geography at the University of Kentucky, adjusts a derailleur on an old French 10-speed bike donated to Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop. Breen recently started a women-only volunteer night at the shop.

Broke Spoke now has dozens of volunteers, who celebrated the shop’s fifth anniversary last week with a bike progressive dinner.

You can celebrate, too, at Broke Spoke’s annual Savory Cycle fundraiser Sept. 27.

Participants ride routes of 25, 50 or 65 miles and enjoy food and beverages from Chef Ouita Michel’s restaurants, West Sixth Brewing and Magic Beans Coffee Roasters. The rides begin and end at Holly Hill Inn in Midway, and non-riding tickets are available for those who just want to eat. Space is limited.

Broke Spoke opened in November 2010 in a small room behind Al’s Sidecar bar at North Limestone and West Sixth streets. It quickly outgrew the space.

When the four partners who own West Sixth Brewery began renovating the Breadbox building at West Sixth and Jefferson streets in 2012, Broke Spoke became one of their first tenants. The shop’s current space is five-times larger than the original one, and it now has eight work stations instead of two.

Broke Spoke volunteers refurbish and sell about 30 donated bikes a month for between $50 and $300. The average bike sells for a little more than $100. Customers who can’t afford that can earn “sweat equity” for up to $75 by volunteering at the shop at a credit rate of $8 an hour.

Buckingham said Broke Spoke’s customers range from college students and young professionals to people from the nearby Hope Center and other shelters.

The shop is open to customers 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Volunteers also work on bikes in the shop 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.

Jessica Breen started a women-only volunteer night the fourth Monday of each month to help them become more comfortable with repairing bicycles.

The shop accepts donated bikes when it is open. Donors also can drop off bikes and parts at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, 451 Southland Dr., and Pedal Power Bike Shop, 401 S. Upper Street.

“Some of our biggest supporters are the local bike shops,” Buckingham said. That support includes donated parts and referrals of customers who bring in old bikes that aren’t economical for the commercial shops to fix.

“I think it has been a good thing,” Pedal Power owner Billy Yates said of Broke Spoke. “The more people there are out there riding, the more visibility cyclists have and the safer it is to ride.”

Broke Spoke doesn’t sell any new merchandise, so it isn’t competing with commercial shops, volunteer Eileen Burk noted. By creating new cyclists, it can create future business for commercial shops.

A new section of the Legacy Trail recently opened beside Broke Spoke, so the shop will soon be sprucing up its entrance. A water fountain will be added, Buckingham said, as well as a bike repair station donated by the Bluegrass Cycling Club.

Broke Spoke’s operating expenses are now covered by bicycle sales. But the cycling club and the Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeways Commission have made donations for several special projects. Individuals have given more than $12,000 to Broke Spoke through the annual Good Giving Guide.

Pop cellist and singer Ben Sollee, who often travels to concerts by bicycle, has played several Broke Spoke benefits. “He’s probably helped us raise more than $10,000,” Buckingham said.

Future plans include more formal training in bike maintenance and repair for volunteers and customers.

Broke Spoke also wants to attract more volunteers so the shop can open more days each week, said Allen Kirkwood, a steering committee member. A special need is bilingual volunteers to improve outreach to Latinos and other immigrants.

“We have plenty of ideas for additional programming,” said volunteer Andy Shooner. “But it really takes having volunteers who get familiar with the shop and say, ‘Yeah, I want to make that happen.'”

If you go

Savory Cycle

When: Sept. 27

What: Fundraiser for Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop

Rides: Choice of three routes — 25, 50 or 65 miles — with food and beverages.

Where: Holly Hill Inn, Midway.

Cost: $100.

Tickets and more info: Savorycycle.org

Tim Buckingham, left, board chairman of Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop, and Andy Shooner discussed volunteer schedules at the shop in the Bread Box complex at the corner of Jefferson and West Sixth Streets. The shop is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

Tim Buckingham, left, board chairman of Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop, and Andy Shooner discussed volunteer schedules at the shop in the Bread Box complex at the corner of Jefferson and West Sixth Streets. The shop is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

A stack of wheels donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop. Donors can bring old bikes to the shop when it is open, or to Pedal Power Bikes on Maxwell Street or the Habitat Restore on Southland Drive.

A stack of wheels donated to Broke Spoke. Donors can bring old bikes to the shop when it is open, or to Pedal Power Bikes on Maxwell Street or the Habitat Restore on Southland Drive.

John Klus works on an old Schwinn bicycle donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop.

John Klus works on an old Schwinn bicycle donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop.

Eileen Burk, a water quality specialist for Kentucky American Water Co., removes a seat from a child's bicycle donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop.

Eileen Burk, a water quality specialist for Kentucky American Water Co., removes a seat from a child’s bicycle donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop.

Eileen Burk, left, and Jessica Breen work on bicycles donated to the Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop. The 10-speed Breen is working on will be repaired for a second life. But Burk is dismantling the cheap children's bike she has for parts.

Eileen Burk, left, and Jessica Breen work on bicycles donated to the Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop. The 10-speed Breen is working on will be repaired for a second life. But Burk is dismantling the cheap children’s bike she has for parts.


Lexington scooter, bike sales rise along with gas prices

May 30, 2011

Scooters have always been fun, but with gas prices hovering around $4 per gallon, they’re also looking practical.

“I love it,” said Lesme Romero, owner of Lexington Pasta, who bought an Italian-made Vespa scooter last November to deliver pasta from his shop on North Limestone to restaurants and markets around town.

Romero drives his Vespa almost daily, but has filled the tank only twice, because it gets about 90 miles to the gallon. Downtown parking is easy, he said, and the bright red-and-white scooter is good advertising.

“People see us and say, ‘There’s the pasta guys!'” he said. “I take it to the farmers market and Thursday Night Live, and everybody wants to stop by and see the Vespa.”

Vespa of Lexington has sold nearly 200 scooters since it opened in November 2009 at 198 Moore Drive, said owners Whit Hiler and Michael Wright. The company sells Vespa, Piaggio, Genuine and Sym scooters and services most brands.

While many people buy scooters for fun, an increasing number commute on them, Hiler said. Scooters have been especially popular with people who work at the University of Kentucky (campus parking is easier) and among families that want to go from two automobiles to one.

Scooter prices start at about $2,100 and go to about $9,000, depending on brand, model and engine size, Hiler said. Gas mileage (regular unleaded) ranges from about 50 mpg to nearly 100 mpg. Top speeds range from about 35 mph for small-engine models, such as the one Romero bought, to 90 mph.

A motorcycle license is required to drive all but the scooters with the smallest engines, which still require a driver’s license or learner’s permit. Helmets are strongly recommended.

The most popular scooters the shop sells are Vespas — Italian for “wasp.” The Italian company Piaggio, which made aircraft during World War II, began making Vespas in 1946 to satisfy Europe’s need for cheap transportation. The Vespas steel body, which has become a design classic, fully encloses the drivetrain, and there is a covered ledge for the driver’s feet.

There was a Vespa dealer on New Circle Road until 1981, when the company withdrew from the U.S. market for two decades. Other Vespa dealers in the region now are in Louisville, Elizabethtown and Cincinnati.

“Lexington has been a good market for scootering,” said Hiler, adding that his shop ranked third in sales among Vespa’s 42 dealers in the Great Lakes region in 2010.

Local enthusiasts last year formed the Circle 4 Scooter club, which has a Facebook page and sponsors rallies and other events. “Scooters can save you a lot of money, but they’re also fun — that’s the biggest benefit,” Hiler said. “We call ourselves fun dealers.”

A cheaper ride

Lexington bicycle shops also are seeing sales rise along with gas prices.

“We’ve had a pretty strong season so far this year with gas prices doing what they’re doing,” said Billy Yates, owner of Pedal Power Bike Shop at South Upper and Maxwell streets. “Even if people commute (by bicycle) just one or two times a week, they’re starting to see a savings when they fill up at the pump.”

Pedal Power is selling more practical bikes than in recent years — hybrid models with upright seating, fenders, racks, baskets and bags. “It’s a very viable means of transportation for many people,” he said.

That is because statistics show many automobile trips are within a mile or two of someone’s home, said Wendy Trimble, owner of Pedal the Planet bike shop, 3450 Richmond Road.

“Our sales are at an all-time high,” Trimble said. “We attribute some of it to commuting and recreation, but a lot is health and fitness issues. Bicycling is a great, low-impact way to lose weight, and it’s fun.”

You will see more bicycles on Lexington streets Monday than on any other day of the year. The annual Bike Lexington festival is expected to draw several thousand people to activities at Courthouse Plaza and a car-free family fun ride around town. More information is at BikeLexington.com.

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More reasons to ride bikes when weather breaks

February 9, 2011

It is Monday afternoon as I write this, and outside my office window, Lexington looks like a giant snow globe. Fat flakes are pounding the icy pavement, and all I can think about is how much I want it to warm up so I can ride my bike again.

Spring will come eventually. When it does, Lexington will be an even better place for bicycling, thanks to many people’s hard work.

The Fayette County Public Schools was awarded a $20,775 grant last month from the Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeway Commission to expand its bike-safety program. The money came from voluntary fees paid by people buying “Share the Road” license plates.

Last year, many of the school system’s physical education teachers were trained by certified instructors from the League of American Bicyclists. The next phase of the program includes purchasing 70 more bikes and helmets to teach all third-, fourth- and fifth-graders how to safely ride a bike.

City officials recently finished “complete streets” guidelines for adding bike lanes, whenever possible, to new and renovated streets and roads, said Kenzie Gleason, Lexington’s bike/pedestrian coordinator.

Lexington has 25 miles of bike lanes, including recent additions to South Limestone, Vine Street, Polo Club Boulevard, Todds Road and the Newtown Pike extension. An additional 15 miles have been funded. Those bike lanes will be added as part of improvements to Maxwell Street and Clays Mill Road this year, and to Southland Drive next year.

Lexington also now has 22 miles of bike/walking trails, including the new Legacy Trail. Six more miles of trails have been funded and are in development. Twenty more miles are being studied or designed but are not funded.

The Legacy Trail’s initial eight-mile section, from the YMCA on Loudon Avenue to the Kentucky Horse Park, has been popular since it opened in September. When it has been too icy or snowy for bikes, friends tell me they have seen people cross-country skiing there.

An extension of the trail from the YMCA to the proposed Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden at East Third Street and Midland Avenue has been delayed until completion of an archaeological survey. Organizers always knew the great 19th-century African-American jockey’s home was near the garden; now they think he might have lived on that very spot.

Two couples from Scott County — Dick and Christie Robinson and Keith and Leslie Flanders — are soliciting support to extend the Legacy Trail from the Horse Park to the Cincinnati Bengals’ training center in Georgetown. The distance is less than most people might think: about three miles. But it would make this the Bluegrass’s first multicounty trail.

Bluegrass Tomorrow also is pushing the idea of a regional trail system. Chairman Blaine Early said the non-profit “smart growth” group hopes to facilitate plans among its 18 counties to build new trails and connect with those that exist elsewhere, including Lexington and Versailles.

Meanwhile, The Fayette Alliance has asked Vice Mayor Linda Gorton to appoint a Bike Trails Task Force to bring stakeholders together to figure out how to design and finance recreational trails throughout Fayette County.

An extensive trail system could be “an extraordinary economic development, quality-of-life, tourism and transportation tool for our city and state,” said Knox van Nagell, director of the land-use advocacy group.

“I’m super-excited about this,” said Gorton, who expects to appoint the task force by the end of February.

But one thing Lexington won’t see soon is another public bike-sharing program downtown. Last year, the city received a $175,000 federal grant that officials hoped to use for an automatic kiosk system to replace the Yellow Bike program that was launched in 2008 but was abandoned last year.

“The more we learned about bike-sharing systems, it was obvious that that amount of money was not going to cover the equipment and ongoing operations,” Gleason said. More study is needed to develop a plan to make such a program pay for itself after creation.

Instead, Gleason said, the grant will be used to install sensors to detect cyclists and trigger traffic signals at key intersections around town. That would be helpful because most current sensors were designed for big motor vehicles and don’t notice a bicycle. Cyclists gripe about that almost as much as they do about snow and ice.


Tour shows how bikes fit into city’s big picture

May 20, 2009
Arthur Ross, Madison's pedestrian-bicycle coordinator, led the bicycle tour that included five Urban County Council members.

Arthur Ross, Madison's pedestrian-bicycle coordinator, led a bike tour that included five Urban County Council members. Photo by Tom Eblen

One of the most popular optional activities during Commerce Lexington’s trip to Madison, WI, was a bicycle tour of the city’s extensive trail network.

It didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect Tuesday afternoon: sunny and in the 70s.

About 50 Lexington visitors paid to rent bikes for a 7-12 mile ride. The group included five six Urban County Council members: Kevin Stinnett, George Myers, Doug Martin, Chuck Ellinger, Jay McChord and Tom Blues.

Madison is regarded as one of the nation’s best cities for bicycling and walking, with a 150-mile network of trails. Many of the trails are popular recreation facilities, especially those around the lakes on either side of downtown Madison.

But what was notable was how trails and bike lanes have been integrated into Madison’s street and sidewalk network. It’s not a novelty; it’s serious transportation and a tool for better connecting Madison’s neighborhoods, businesses and public venues.

The city requires new developments and buildings to have parking facilities for bicycles as well as cars. And when it snows — as it does a lot here — trails are cleared as quickly as streets, because so many people bike to work, said Arthur Ross, Madison’s pedestrian-bicycle coordinator.

In addition to commuters and recreational riders, many people now run errands on bikes and a growing number of businesses are using them to make deliveries, Ross said.

While some neighborhoods have resisted new trails, fearing they would bring in a “bad element,” there’s no evidence of that. Ross said property values of homes often rise after trails are built near them.

Ross noted that trails are especially important in cul de sac neighborhoods. The intent of cul de sacs is to isolate people from the impact of automobiles and traffic, but they shouldn’t isolate people from each other, he said.

The key to successful integration of trails, bike lanes and roads is public education and good design that minimizes traffic conflicts. That was evident during the trail ride, as intersections where the trail crossed streets were carefully marked for both drivers and cyclists. Most roads also accommodate bicycles.

Halfway through the tour, the group stopped for lunch at Strand Associates, a Madison-based engineering firm with a vice president who lives in Lexington, Mike Woolum. Strand is doing the design work for Lexington’s Legacy Trail, which by the end of next year will connect downtown Lexington with the Kentucky Horse Park.


May is bicycle month: Have fun, be safe

May 5, 2008

As an avid cyclist, I’m pleased to see Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry and the Urban County Council embracing pedal power.

Lexington is joining cities across the country – even New York City, of all places – in making safe cycling for recreation and transportation a top priority. Cycling’s time has come, even if gas didn’t cost more than $3.50 a gallon.

Newberry has appointed a 17-member task force headed by bike enthusiast Brad Flowers to help the city accomplish recommendations that came from a bicycle summit meeting last fall.

Those initiatives include a variety of events in May. The highlight will be the Bike Lexington Rally downtown on Saturday, May 17. The Rally is a car-free, 10-mile family ride around downtown Lexington. I went last year, and it was a lot of fun. The mayor was there, too, and rode the whole way.

A new Bike Lexington event this year is a three-day stage race, May 16-18, that hopes to attract racers from around the country. Beginning that Friday evening, racers will compete on a two mile course along the Avenue of Champions/Euclid Ave. There will be activities for spectators at Memorial Coliseum. It should be fun to watch.

Go to Bike Lexington’s Web site for more information.

Another local resource is the Bluegrass Cycling Club, which sponsors rides every week for cyclists of all experience levels. The club’s big annual event, the Horsey Hundred, is coming up Memorial Day weekend.

Some people ride bikes for fun; for others, it’s a form of transportation. Sadly, a Louisville commuter cyclist was killed early Sunday on his way to work when he was hit by an off-duty police officer. Read about it here.

You’ll see a lot more cyclists on roads throughout the state now that the weather is warming. Here are some links to help cyclists and motorists ride more safely:

Safety information for cyclists

Safety information for motorists

An overview from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And for more information about Kentucky’s cool “Share the Road” license plate, shown above, click here.