Since day one The Bicycle Works was a vibrant and eclectic community workshop. By almost every measure the project was a tremendous success. When I set out to start a bike co-op in Marin in 2008, I had absolutely no idea that it would work out so well. With an outpouring of support and patronage from the surrounding community we largely achieved our goals and have jump started a movement in Marin toward sustainable transportation alternatives.
In the process of setting up the bike tool workshop as an educational resource, we also developed an expertise in cargo bikes and electric bike custom builds, sales, and service. This was an exciting aspect of the project because it has put us at the epicenter of a bicycle revolution as more an more people have replaced their cars with e-cargo bikes for local trips, taking their kids to school, commuting, and even touring. We sold electric/cargo bikes to the city of San Anselmo, The Marin County Parks and Recreation, and The San Rafael City Library, and to hundreds of local families willing to ride on the cutting edge of transportation. We also taught several thousand people how to fix bikes over the course of the past 7 years. We worked tirelessly to create an open and welcoming environment centered around creativity and sharing. All in all it was a great success.
So why did The Bicycle Works close? The simple answer is that the shop was sustaining but it was not thriving. Our business model generated a tremendous amount of good will, but did not generate enough revenue. We were faced with slim margins, increasing costs, lower demand, and stiffer competition. The staff was growing out of the organization as well. Jelani had just completed his MBA at Dominican University, Brett was looking to better utilize his engineering degree from Humboldt State, and Luke was back in school finishing up his English degree at SF State. The Bicycle Works was an amazing opportunity for all of us, however, the core staff were all ready to move on in our careers.
In This Way?
Why didn’t we pass off the organization to a new staff? Creating a lasting community organization was always a goal. It is one goal that proved too difficult to achieve. Running the bicycle works was a really complicated job. Keeping talented staff was a challenge over the years. The staff here had to be able to multi-task, problem solve, teach, and sell. They had to have immense patience, perseverance, knowledge of bikes, fabrication, and electronics. They had to have great customer service skills as well as the ability to remain grounded in a fast paced and dynamic environment. These credentials were hard to find. Unfortunately The Bicycle Works as an organization would not be able to afford to pay to replace the core staff.
At This Time?
7 Years was a really good run. At this point the wheels of change have been set in motion and there is no turning back.