HOW IT ALL BEGAN: History of the space and concept
New Hope Community Bikes started when Jeff Neven pitched the idea of a bike co-op to Redeemer student Sid Slotegraaf. The two avid bike riders met at a 24 Hour Bike Race and Jeff shared his experience of starting a bike co-op in Michigan. It should also be noted that at this race, Sid revealed the wisdom of how to go fast and win races. Jeff, seeing how much faster Sid's laps were than his own asked Sid how he managed to ride so fast. Sid responded, "Do you use your brakes?...Don't." As Sid went on to race Downhill Mountain Bike World Cups, this response was firmly solidified in the New Hope history and oral teachings, passed down from biker to biker.
Secret wisdom of speed aside, Sid instantly bought into the vision that Jeff shared of starting a bike co-op, and with the collaborative efforts of First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church, New Hope Bike Co-op was started at the Ottawa Street Farmers Market with simple bike repairs. With the help of a Canada Summer Jobs grant, Sid was able to continue this work during the summer of 2009 and the shop opened with a physical location that occupied the old dance floor of the former Rookie's Night Club. Volunteers donated tools, time and talents to build a usable bike shop where they started teaching people how to fix bikes and refurbishing donated bikes to be sold for affordable transportation. See what that shop looked like in a comical silent film here or the serious convictions of what started it all here.
The Bike Co-op stayed in the old Night Club until Indwell began renovating the building in the winter of 2010 to create the John M. Perkins Centre, a three story affordable housing building with a community centre and a new home for New Hope Bike Co-op. While construction was under way, the New Hope Bike Co-op moved across the street to 1418 Main St. E. The space worked alright as a bike shop but staff relied on space heaters, gloves and toques to stay warm in the winter. On top of that, in the winter, the frosted over glass often had people wondering if the open sign was really telling the truth. While we were in this location we had a robbery and a number of our tools were stolen. You can read more about that incident in The Spectator. The 1418 space brought some major transitions for New Hope Bike Co-op including: the hiring of year round part time staff, the move from a Rubbermaid bucket to a cash register, and the development of a website. The bike co-op was no longer just a dimly lit place where people could go and get their hands dirty, it was slowly becoming a place where bike culture and community was fostered and created.
During this time New Hope Bike Co-op started working with schools, providing after school bike repair and teaching safe cycling principles. To make these repair events easier, the aptly named "Pig" was built. This 300lb tricycle was built from the frame of an old "Dickie-Dee" ice cream bike and became a mobile bike shop that could take all the tools needed for repairs to locations throughout the city. Named the "Pig" because of how difficult it was to ride, staff and volunteers rode the oversized trike to many events, riding hundreds of kilometers and even riding it up rail trails to events at Redeemer and Mohawk College.
The John M. Perkins Centre opened in the fall of 2011 and New Hope Bike Co-op got a bright, new, shiny home. Around the same time, the bike co-op started working towards developing its own steering committee and organizational structure apart from the church, to alleviate some of the demands placed on the church board and administration. In 2013, New Hope Bike Co-op incorporated as the not for profit New Hope Community Bikes (NHCB) and the co-op name was officially dropped.
The space at the Perkins Centre was great, it had lots of natural light, air conditioning, and work benches built out of cedar and shiny steel. It had permanent repair stands that didn't tip over when someone worked on a bike and heat that prevented the windows from frosting over in the winter. At this location NHCB had regular full time staff and also started to work with other cycle related groups to improve cycling safety and the cycling culture in Hamilton. To build cycling culture and celebrate existing cycling infrastructure in the city, the Steel City Bike Festival was started in 2011, as a way to bring cyclists together and has grown and continued ever since.
The Perkins Centre home of New Hope Community Bikes established the organization as more than just a 'hole-in-the-wall' bike shop or a cheap place to get a bike fixed. Instead, NHCB began to be a city wide leader in cycling safety and education. With all of this program growth and a thriving refurbished bike and repair business, the space quickly felt cramped. The open concept design lacked a good way of separating repair bikes from sale bikes, or preventing the chaos of bike repairs from spreading everywhere. NHCB started to feel like it was going to need more space than the location could offer and perhaps in anticipation of greater things to come, a permanent storefront sign was never installed at the Perkins Centre location.
In the late months of 2012 Indwell purchased two properties on the south side of Main Street, 1422 and 1424. Both of these properties had been eyesores, and places of illegal activity, and vacancy. Indwell initially purchased the properties with the intent of tearing them down, but, after some conversation and dreaming decided to refurbish them and turn the 1422 location into the home of NHCB. Once again, volunteers pitched in. This time to help refurbish the building which had to be gutted down to the studs. Indwell worked with NHCB staff to dream and design what the new storefront could look like and how the space could be welcoming to everyone.
On July 1st of 2013, while almost everyone was taking a holiday, staff and volunteers at NHCB started moving the bike shop across the street. The timing was perfect as it's much easier to cross 5 lanes of traffic with a 15 foot work bench when most of the city is on holidays. By the end of July the shop was fully established in its new location and even had an overhead sign, recall the hindsight of not having a sign before...
By the beginning of 2014, NHCB was well established in its new home, and at the same time was granted its own charitable status as an educational charity. Also, in 2014, with the funding help of the Hamilton Community Foundation New Hope Community Bikes started a cargo bike rental program, intended to provide more people with access to cargo bikes and sustainable transportation. The program was an overwhelming success and all 6 bikes had waiting lists for when they could be rented out next. The program made access to bikes, that would otherwise be too expensive, easy so that more people could experience what a more cycle-centric city could look like. Check out the Spectator article about this program here. More details of our 2014 programming can be found in our Annual Report.
In 2015 NHCB started it's school based education program to reach more students with a comprehensive, self-contained program called Ride Smart. This program has become a core activity with over 3400 students participating in the program since it started in 2015, and capacity for 2000 students per year.
Annual Reports and Strategic Plan
New Hope Community Bikes
1249 Main St. E Hamilton, ON L8K 1A8
CRA Charity # 8471 69844 RR0001
Learn. Fix. Ride.