For five years, Community Bikes has lived on the corner of Avon Street and Levy Avenue, where countless bikes have been given away to people in need. But this June might be the end of the road.
The local nonprofit donates bikes to low-wealth community members. This has been made possible, in part, by the Charlottesville Housing and Redevelopment Authority who has let the organization live rent free. However, CHRA is now terminating the agreement — giving Community Bikes until June of this year to find a new home.
“Right now, we’re looking for some place that we can set up shop to continue providing the services for the community that we do,” said Jake Oswalt, the shop manager.
Oswalt hopes that Community Bikes could eventually open a second community based shop in a neighboring town, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and now this relocation, that goal has become more difficult to achieve.
“We’ve been very very busy trying to keep up with demand, because people aren’t riding public transportation,” Oswalt explained. “They need a bike to get to work.”
Last year, around 700 bikes were given away. With the increase in demand, the number of volunteers has been affected by the pandemic, as well.
“We don’t have access to the volunteer staff that we had before [the pandemic],” Oswalt said.
The shop is currently operating with two full-time staff members and two part-time mechanics, as well as a few volunteers. The volunteer pool is filled by local organizations as well as individual community members and currently accounts for about 20 work hours a week.
In order to continue to do the work that they do, Oswalt said they’d need a facility at around 1,800 square feet near downtown Charlottesville. Community Bikes has been reaching out through social media and word-of-mouth in the hopes that someone will respond with a solution. He urges anyone who can help to visit their website.
“The more bikes that are on the road, the better our cycling infrastructure will become, the less dependent we are on cars, the healthier we’re gonna be,” said Oswalt. “At this point right now, honestly, I just want to be able to give away more free bikes.”
Mike Kropf is a photographer with work printed in various publications in central Virginia. Previously, he was the staff photographer for Longwood University and a photographer for the Washington Football Team.