B!KE is a community cycling hub in Peterborough, Ontario. This incorporated not-for-profit was founded in 2006 and operates as a social enterprise. B!KE seeks to empower people to travel by bike in the Peterborough community, with a mission to teach folks to maintain, repair and ride their bikes, and a sustained commitment to: community, health, inclusivity, self-reliance, sustainability, teaching, learning, fun, freedom and a love of cycling.
B!KE is located downtown at 293 George Street North and their shop is open to the public five days a week, providing tools and knowledge about bicycle maintenance and safety, as Executive Director Tegan Moss told Arthur.
The organization receives a significant portion of its operating budget from the Trent University undergraduate levy fee (approximately one-eighth of the 2019 budget). Trent students voted to ratify this levy fee in the Spring 2011 referendum, and began contributing the following September. Students currently pay a refundable contribution of $4.35 each, per year.
Functioning as a shop, B!KE does generate revenue through selling memberships, bicycles and parts, but these sales fluctuate. In addition, B!KE may receive other funding, but this tends to be project-specific and is generally not continuous. Moss told Arthur that “the continuity of levy funding makes it possible to offer a really high level of service to the community.”
B!KE has served the Trent University and larger Peterborough communities for over a decade, but is now facing uncertain times ahead as a result of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI) which will make funding student and community groups optional, as of Fall 2019.
Moss said that the SCI “has made our work feel more precarious,” although “we have yet to see the full impact of [these] provincially legislated changes.” She explained that levy funding is core funding for B!KE.
“We think of it as directly paying our rent – it provides [this] space for students and community members… We hope that Trent students and their families will see the value in how these small fees create huge impacts in the community at large.”
Moss explained some of the many ways this levy fee serves students. For starters, the fee of less than $5 allows the continuation of “a community resource and students are a part of that community.” B!KE “builds culture in the city where students live [by modelling] a way of living that can impact students for the rest of their lives.”
As with many other levy-funded initiatives, B!KE also provides volunteer, work and study opportunities for students and helps students access affordable transportation. For some, like rowers who need to get to campus for practices before buses even start running, bicycles are their only transportation option – and B!KE can help them access affordable bikes and maintain them.
So how does B!KE work?
The organization consists of three year-round paid staff members (two full-time and one part-time), and one part-time seasonal paid employee, while the rest of the team is made up of volunteers. There are 16 volunteers who do weekly shifts, and numerous others who help out on occasion. The organization also has a board of six volunteer members.
B!KE offers a workshop space and tools for bicycle repair, helps to make bicycles safe and affordable, advocates for people on bikes and provides programming to do so. The downtown workshop space is open to all, and patrons can either buy an annual membership which grants access to their workshop space, tools and expertise, or they can access the services pay-per-use.
Memberships are offered at a reduced rate for Trent students, having already contributed via levy funding. B!KE also operated an on-campus repair shop at Trent University’s Symons Campus for four years (in addition to the downtown workshop), but the university repurposed the space that was used by B!KE@TRENT so it is no longer in operation. However, B!KE oversees maintenance of 24/7 bike repair stations which can be found throughout Peterborough, including one on the Trent Symons Campus.
Other programming includes workshops on bicycle maintenance, repair and riding skills, Earn-a-Bike (offers people the opportunity to build their own bicycle free of charge), Winter Wheels (provides free equipment for winter biking), Pedal Power (an in-school riding program for children), glow rides, and helping to coordinate Peterborough Pulse.
B!KE provides volunteer programming for over 30 volunteers a year, and new this summer B!KE offered a free bicycle valet service at Peterborough Musicfest, funded by the City of Peterborough.
If you want to learn more, check out the community bike shop at 293 George street North, open Saturdays and Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. There are many ways to get in touch: choose which works best for you at communitybikeshop.org/contact.