Frequently Asked Questions
What is Utica Bike Rescue?
Utica Bike Rescue is a community bicycle shop that promotes bicycling as an affordable, effective, sustainable form of transportation and as a cornerstone of a cleaner, healthier, and safer society. We'll provide refurbished bicycles and educational programs to the community in a variety of ways, focusing on children, students, low-income and refugee households.
That's kind of a mouthful... what we will do is take bicycles out of the waste stream and redistribute them in several ways. Check these out on our Programs page.
What's the story behind Utica Bike Rescue?
There is a problem when it comes to bicycle transportation - no, it's not the weather, drivers on cell phones or bad roads. In a single generation, we've turned our backs on the idea of learning how to repair even simple machines and appliances. We've come to expect that we'll simply return something to the store when it breaks and get a new one, without consideration of where the damaged thing goes.
In fact, very few things we buy are even serviceable. The bicycle is an exception. Over 100 years of bicycle innovation has led us to this place... a place where we still have the same basic design that was developed in the late 1800s.
The bicycle is a relatively simple machine that provides very efficient movement. Bicycles are used worldwide for personal transportation, business and recreation - each of these uses take advantage of the wonderful mechanical advantage provided by the simple design of a bike.
Sadly, the basic mechanical skills needed to maintain a bike have been lost in a single generation. We don't do this kind of education anymore.
Why is Utica Bike Rescue important to our area?
We sometimes assume that everyone can easily just drive themselves to where they need to go. But roughly ¼ of households in Utica do not have access to a motor vehicle; greater than 50% have only one car. Bus service in Utica has improved in recent years but limitations still exist (for example, you can't yet put your bike on our buses like you can in most other places). This situation creates a challenge for people who need to travel greater distances than is practical on foot. But by providing a little guidance and some basic knowledge, Utica Bike Rescue seeks to change that. And when we introduce our neighbors to the simple, affordable mobility that a bicycle provides we'll open up an opportunity for a new type of self-reliant independence.
To that end, Utica Bike Rescue will not be simply giving free bikes to people. We're providing a solution to mobility challenges by offering a hand-up, not a hand-out. Experience has shown us that it's necessary to create a sense of ownership and teach the necessary skill to ride and maintain a bike if you want to provide real, lasting value. Our programs will do just that.
What challenges are you facing?
What's challenging about this approach is that it takes a real, honest commitment on the part of our small staff, volunteers and our customers, too. Bikes are earned through our shop. We don't just give people bikes and send them on their way. But I wouldn't have it any other way because we're not necessarily concerned with touting how many thousands of bikes we've handed out and we're not concerned with big headlines. What we want to do is make a long-lasting, positive impact on people's lives by providing them with mobility, self-confidence, practical skills and fellowship. Even if we could only provide this experience to just a few people that's great. It's not necessarily about raw numbers. But I'm quite sure we can do much more. Right now it's a matter of getting our workshop outfitted with workstations and tools by securing enough financial support to get us up and running. After that initial opening, Utica Bike Rescue will be run as an entrepreneurial social enterprise. Just like we're not looking to simply hand-out bikes, we're not seeking hand-outs from others.
What does Utica Bike Rescue need from the community?
We've already seen donations of bikes and parts start to flow. My experience in helping to establish Troy Bike Rescue 10 years ago was that there are plenty of unneeded bikes out there waiting to be rebuilt and ridden. What we really need to get this project to the next level is a solid group of people who can do some of the repair training and help run our programs. We've established the need in the community, we just need to connect everyone. There are plenty of ways to connect with us. Starting in December our workshop will be open from 5:00-8:00 on Thursday nights and from 11:00-2:00 on Saturdays. This is a time when we'll be accepting donations and getting the workshop built-out and fully open. The Open Shop hours are also going to be a time when people can come in and use our tools and pick the brains of our mechanics if they're stumped on a certain repair need. We're in the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 714 Washington Street in Utica. We use the side entrance on Hanna Park Drive and you can get directions by clicking right here. Of course, we're on Facebook too, at facebook.com/UticaBikeRescue, and can be reached by phone at 315-525-9554.