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New Belgium Beer + Bikes = Jobs

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New Belgium (aka: Fat Tire Amber Ale brewer), known for supporting Bicycle Advocacy and other philanthropical causes, is underwriting the first-ever Social Bike Business in the world.

The Social Bike Business (SBB) is the brainchild of One Street and is a program that encourages people in distressed areas to learn how to use bicycles for their main mode of transportation, and they can learn skills that help them get a job, from basic bike repair all the way up to frame building.

The brewer has provided seed funding to help with initial organizational costs for the first-ever SBB program, located in Los Angeles, CA.  For LA, One Street has partnered with C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange), and the grant will help them scout locations, cover travel to manufacturer meetings, plan and design the Center and general administrative costs.  It’s a year-long grant, but One Street director Executive Director Sue Knaup said they’re making quick progress thanks to C.I.C.L.E.’s efforts.

Read “more” for program details and to see how drinking beer really does help the economy.

The program works like this:

Founded in 2007, One Street is the organization spearheading this program worldwide. They look for local and regional partners to run individual SBB centers.  In this case, C.I.C.L.E. is managing the LA program.  One Street helps provide the framework for the program, guidance on setting it up in a local community and ongoing support.  C.I.C.L.E. is bringing the local knowledge and understanding of the culture to fit the program into LA’s landscape. 

Before any bikes are built, neighborhood meetings are held to determine the community’s needs, style preferences and colors, then they all get to help create the logo and decals for the “Los Angeles” model.  The designs are centered on transportation-oriented bikes that can hold up to carrying loads, kids and trailers, but decisions like whether to use panniers or attach permanent racks are made on the local level.

In Los Angeles, so many people have started riding that the used bike inventory is dwindling, so making sturdy, affordable bikes is an important part of the program. 

Bikes should retail for $200 to $250 each, which Sue admits is a hurdle.

The intended audience for these bikes will likely initially balk at such an amount when they can buy a Wal-Mart bike for $90.  So, One Street faces the challenge of A) convincing people that these bikes are worth the price because they will last much longer and B) helping them afford these bikes.

“You just can’t repair the cheap bikes found in big-box retailers,” said Sue. “The bikes we build are designed to be used and abused, be easy to fix and last a really long time.”

Bikes will be built using high quality chromoly steel tubing so they’re easy to repair and use simple 7- or 8-speed drivetrains that are easy to service.  One Street and C.I.C.L.E. will negotiate OEM deals with component manufacturers and determine details like whether they’ll build wheels in-house or order complete groups.

To solve the cost concern, One Street has several plans to help people buy their bikes:

  • Offering micro-loans
  • Subsidizing bike purchases through money raised by sponsors for people at or below poverty level
  • Letting people work toward the purchase in the SBB centers

The centers will be run in a for-profit structure, but its success will be gauged by the number of people it serves.  Each center will be managed by paid staff with good wages, which will create a more professional work environment.

Los Angeles is the first program like this anywhere in the world, and One Street is in discussions with partners in Prague and Budapest.  One Street is looking for partners to start programs in other cities throughout the world.

As this program and others gain momentum, C.I.C.L.E. and future program managers provide feedback that will help future partners to set up programs in other cities, making it quicker and easier for future programs to get up and running.

So, it’s Friday.  Grab a Fat Tire, kick back and know that you’re helping the economy.  I wonder if that beer purchase is a tax deductible charitable contribution…

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