Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op’s 2017 Annual Report

I started the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op (BSBC) two years ago with little more than a space, some bike tools, and a desire to build something I wanted to see in New Haven. Very quickly I met some amazing people who threw resources at the idea. In 2016, we said “yes” to everything that came across our plate, and as a result we took a big leap forward. We donated 86 bikes to refugees, mental health patients, individuals experiencing homelessness, veterans, and kids. We sold another 91 bikes to students and New Haven residents, which helped keep the lights on. We volunteered at repair clinics, helped support New Haven Bike Month, hosted events, played basketball, talked on the radio, received a grant from the Yale School of Management (SOM), worked with schools, and most importantly, we made a ton of friends.

At the end of 2016, we finalized our mission: The Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op is a community bike shop working towards an equitable New Haven by getting more people on bikes.

We had a few goals for the next year: to grow our community, to get more bikes on our streets, and to keep making New Haven a better place. We decided to do this by putting extra energy in 2017 into our three central programs:

  • Open Shop Hours — We have public hours focused on bike repair. You can come in and fix your own bike, volunteer to fix our donated bikes, and make new friends.
  • Used Bike Shop — We sell affordable used bikes to members of the community to help fund the Co-op.
  • Donation Program — We donate bikes to those who cannot afford them through our amazing partner programs.
Three Afghan refugees (one father and two sons) get bikes from BSBC

As a result, 2017 saw a huge amount of amazing energy and growth. BSBC was accepted into the SOM Social Impact program in which we worked with a group of MBA students to build tracking and financial systems. I spent much of the winter fixing bikes with friends and writing the draft of our three year strategic plan, which we will publish in 2018. Chris rebuilt our website and Peter built a tracking system for our bikes. Spring kicked off with yet another successful New Haven Bike Month. We fixed bikes in awesome neighborhoods, hosted and attended events, and found more friends all over New Haven. Caroline made a beautiful video about the Co-op, and surprised us with it.

Over the summer our relationship with New Haven deepened as we donated and sold bikes and met so many new people. Our member and volunteer base expanded rapidly and shop hours were always a blast, often spilling out into the street with tools scattered on the ground, bikes being torn apart and rebuilt, and people meeting one another and having fun. In July, something that means a lot to the Co-op started: Chainbreakers, a womens/trans/femme night at the Co-op, run by Rachel and Sara. August was our busiest month — we sold nearly as many bikes in the month of August as we did in all of 2016. In addition to our amazing day to day volunteers, Jeff and Andrew stepped up and became full-time volunteers, committing to running the shop and fixing bikes a few days a week during shop hours.

Chainbreakers!

September and October saw continued growth, in both numbers and in the development of our mission. We were consistently humbled and got to make new friends at the New Haven Register, the Daily Nutmeg, the New Journal, and the Yale Herald as stories were written about us. We got to 1,000 likes on Facebook. We started a bunch of exciting projects with volunteers. Mara started working on an awesome project to map the empowerment of bike ownership in New Haven. Alden is implementing a results based accountability (RBA) model into our strategic plan. Jayquise won 1st place for the CCAP fall cyclocross series (OK, we had very little to do with this one, but I still like bragging about him). With Jordan and Jasper, we worked with a group of students from the Yale Undergraduate Consulting Group to better tell our story. Our end-of-year numbers in December blew us away; in almost every metric, we more than doubled our work in 2016. Our favorite metric? In 2016, we got 177 bikes out the door through sales and donations to our partner programs — in 2017 we got 412 bikes back on the streets of New Haven.

Getting bikes back out in New Haven is important. There are three statistics that always motivate us:

New Haven has the sixth greatest income inequality of all cities in the United States [ESRI] with 26.6% of the population living below the poverty line. [datausa.io]
“84% of CTWorks registrants identify transportation as a barrier to work.” [DataHaven]
“The average annual operating cost of a car in Connecticut is $8,558; the average annual operating cost of a bicycle is $308.” [AAA]

The most direct way to affect income inequality is to get people jobs. In New Haven lack of quality transportation is rated as the highest problem people face when accessing the job market. Owning a car is expensive, our public transportation system is unreliable, and walking is often too slow or feasible. Bikes provide a low-cost, highly efficient way of moving through the city that can directly help increase employment. Getting 412 bikes out into New Haven in 2017 is an accomplishment that we should all be proud of. I can’t wait to see that number grow every year.

I will share one more story that for me beautifully captures 2017. One evening in the fall, Deb, a co-op volunteer and student at Yale, was working on a bike with an older man who had recently gotten out of prison and had been to the shop a few times. I was enjoying watching a friendship emerge as the two worked together and chatted the whole time. After shop hours ended, I sent Deb a text about the evening. She replied, “As I was riding home, I realized that he has been in prison since I was 2 years old, but in that moment, we shared space.”

2018 is going to be even more incredible. We will publish our three-year strategic plan. We will finish our tax-exempt application and begin cultivating fund development strategies. We will build infrastructure to make the operations more successful and efficient including: a new website, a video introduction to the Co-op, and better online donation and check-out services. We will start a monthly newsletter. We plan on building out the used bike shop space so customers can easily see our selection of bikes. We will build new shelves and workbenches to give us more room and double the number of tools we have on hand. We will create a calendar for volunteers to sign up for shifts, and make volunteering easier, more fun, and something people want to do more often. We will find more ways of getting people who don’t ride bikes to come hang out at the Co-op. We will build new programs that empower our neighborhoods. We will keep showing up. We will build more bridges. We will keep dreaming. We will keep loving our city.

If any of this makes you excited, then come down and visit the shop at 138 Bradley Street, in downtown New Haven. You can come volunteer! You can fix your current bike! You can donate your old bike! You can buy a used bike to help support the program! You can donate funds to help us fix more bikes! If you are an organization, and you need bikes, reach out and let us know! Or sign up for our email list (bottom of the website) and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date!

If I had to pick one thing that I am most proud of in 2017, it would be how many people built stake in the Co-op this past year. I can’t help but gush about becoming friends with all of you and working to get more bikes back in New Haven. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for being a part of 2017. Come down and let’s build this together.

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