EBC History

In 1980, a group of like-minded, bicycle-commuting enthusiasts decided it was time to band together to encourage and help more people to get around Edmonton by bicycle. In August of that year, the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society was officially born!

The original idea was to promote cycling in Edmonton, encourage the City of Edmonton to seriously consider cycling in its transportation and urban planning, and to provide a do-it-yourself bike shop and bike recycling service to commuter cyclists in Edmonton. The EBC community bike shops, BikeWorks North and BikeWorks South, are still at the heart of EBC, but the organization has done much, much more over the years.

In the late 1980’s, EBC launched a festival to celebrate the wondrous machine that is the bicycle! Lunar Cycle, which ran for six years before the main organizers moved on to bigger and better things, was a celebration of all things bike, and included events such as bike-to-work breakfasts, participation in the silly summer parade (with our lovely cow-on-a-bike mascot), advocacy outreach and many other events.

Since the early 2000s, Lunar Cycle has been reincarnated and expanded by EBC members and others in the community in the annual June Bike Month celebrations, centered around the weekend-long Bikeology festival.

The Rails to Trails initiative was also developed in the 1990s by a core group of EBC members. The vision of Rails to Trails was to convert unused rail corridors in the city into a network of multiuse trails for cyclists and pedestrians. While not as expansive as envisioned, what EBC advocated for has essentially been adopted by the City of Edmonton’s Ribbon of Steel project.

The Bikes on Buses initiative – to encourage the city to equip Edmonton Transit buses with racks for bicycles – was started by former EBC president Tooker Gomberg. EBC purchased, via a grant, bike racks for ETS to install on buses, providing half of the racks required for the initial bus routes involved in the pilot. The program has been operating since 1996 within the City of Edmonton, and as of 2013 is expanding to include all full-size ETS buses.

Since its inception, EBC has been committed to reducing the environmental impact of bicycles past their prime. We continue to accept used bikes and strip them of parts that can still be used to stock our low-cost parts room. Non-salvageable parts and bikes are sent to be melted down and recycled. In 2006, EBC expanded our recycling program by partnering with the Alberta Recycling Management Authority, Mountain Equipment Coop, and a number of bike stores in Edmonton to pilot a project to collect and recycle bicycle tires.

The many changes in the location of BikeWorks are also renowned among longstanding members. We started out on Jasper Avenue before moving to 107 Street and 85 Avenue, and then to someone’s car! The next actual building was the Quonset hut between Calgary Trail North and South at University Avenue. BikeWorks next location was a space over at the Tile factory in the same yard. That winter was a particularly cold one for intrepid BikeWorks mechanics, as there was no heat in the Tile Factory. Walter Gobel donated a wood burning stove, and we stayed warm by burning extraneous bits of paper.

We experienced some difficulty with vandals, so, when our landlord, the Alberta Government, sold the property to NAIT the following winter, many welcomed the move to our new location. In 2000 we moved EBC into an alley on 80th Avenue – a much-needed larger, more visible space which allowed us to expand the services we offer to the community and improve our revenues. In April 2012, we opened BikeWorks North, a second location for our community bike workshop and home for The Spoke. At the end of 2013, we said goodbye to BikeWorks South’s long running location in the alley and moved a block and a half away to 8001 102 Street. The new BikeWorks South had its grand opening in May 2014, and provides the brightest, most visible and most accessible location EBC has ever had.

It’s been a long ride for EBC, marked by chaos; rusty clunkers; some new, shiny parts; moves; enthusiasm; thousands of used bikes coming and going; amazing volunteers; happy staff; beautiful, conscientious members; lots of learning; bent tools; people insisting that bikes be made available to them to cycle to Ontario in October; building mezzanines and taking mezzanines down; pizza; bikes and wheels swinging from the rafters and piling thick on the floor; bike movies; lunar cycling; overflowing storage rooms; great conversations over broken bikes; art bikes; staying warm by the light of the wood burning stove; donations from other bike shops; bikes stolen; and on and on and on.

Since 1980, EBC has been proud to support cycling in Edmonton. Non-profit groups are generally run by the seat of their pants and the kindness of strangers, and EBC is no exception; there was a time (a long time ago) when being the president of EBC meant paying the organization’s rent. But through it all and thanks to our committed members and many volunteers (as well as the various funders we’ve had over the years, including CanadaTrust Environment Fund, EcoTrust, the Wild Rose Foundation, the City of Edmonton and the Alberta Government, and more), we have prevailed to become the group we are today: a mainstream organization making an impact on transportation choices in Edmonton.

 

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