Tara Escudero wants to make it easier for everyone in the Twin Tiers to have their own bike – and be able to learn how to repair them – in hopes of making bicycling an affordable form of transportation for more people.
Tara leads Elmira Bikes, a bicycling advocacy group she started five years ago when she moved to the Twin Tiers, and she recently launched a drive to open a Community Bike Shop in Elmira.
An online fundraising campaign for the shop quickly topped its goal of $5,000 – in just six days – and its possible someone will match the $5,000, so the shop could open thanks to an investment of more than $10,000. The group plans to convert a former bar-restaurant at 200 W. Fifth St. into the shop, with a possible May opening in time for Bike Month.
“There are community bike shops all over the world and they all function slightly differently,” Tara said recently. “If they already have a bike, we can show them how to properly and safely fix their own bike and provide the tools and parts for that.”
Unlike traditional bike shops, Tara doesn’t want bicyclists to drop off their bikes at the shop so someone else can fix them. Instead, experienced volunteers will provide guidance, tools and parts to help bicyclists become do-it-yourselfers. I know from personal experience that knowing how to do the basics of bike maintenance– change a flat tire, adjust your brakes, lower your seat. etc– can be handy.
After starting Elmira Bikes, Tara has been organizing bike rides in the Elmira area on Facebook. She’s committed to seeing bikes gain more traction as an affordable and practical form of transportation in the area.
“I think it’s just an aspect of public life that we’re missing,” she said. “Riding bikes is a very simple way to take back public space and roads for people.”
Tara was stunned and thankful about the quick response to the bike shop plan.
“We are blown away by the support and have already started purchasing tools and supplies and are getting the shop ready,” Tara wrote recently. “We will leave the fundraiser active as we are waiting to hear back about our matching grant application, so feel free to still share! Any extra funds enable us to pay rent further into the future and purchase more supplies to make this an incredible community space. Thank you again and we can’t wait to see you at the shop.”
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