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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Biking on the edge of a Rock: Cycling in St. John’s – Part 2

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Photo by Andrew Harvey

Anyone who has visited Newfoundland will tell you that it is the people that make Newfoundland as amazing as it is. When it comes to cycling in St. John’s, the folks at ordinary spokes are part of what makes cycling in Newfoundland as amazing as it is.

Ordinary Spokes is a volunteer operated community cycling organization based in St. John’s. The started operating in November 2009, and opened the doors to their bike repair shop in January 2010. Ordinary Spokes is a great example of a dedicated group of volunteers who care dearly about something, and are willing to work tirelessly towards it.

What sets Ordinary Spokes apart from many organizations is the simple, clear goal they have: building a biking community in St. John’s. As an organization, they have positioned themselves well to do this. They rely on the great strength of the biking community we currently have to build and develop into something larger and greater. Education and the DIY ethic are central to Ordinary Spokes’ method of promoting community by informing and empowering individuals. They host monthly workshops on everything from road safety to how to stud your bike tires for winter riding (for those real hard-core bikers).

For such a young organization, Ordinary Spokes has wasted no time in making a big impact through activities and events. Since starting late last year, they have held: informational sessions, drop-in hours at the repair shop, movie nights, bike races, and group rides.

Ordinary Spokes works exactly like the world should, encouraging community building in the most inclusive, participatory manner possible. All are welcome to attend Ordinary Spokes meetings, and decisions are made by consensus. The make sure that money is not an object to people becoming an active biker and community member, Ordinary Spokes sells bikes for a minimum $50 donation to cover costs, or will help anyone repair a bike they have to get them on the road.

In a world where non-profit organizations are having a harder and harder time keeping their doors open, Ordinary Spokes have done well to avoid the “organization” nature of most conventional non-profits. Instead they have chosen to focus on the community aspects of bike culture in St. John’s. Here they have found abundant energy and expertise, which they have worked with (to great effect) to make biking a more viable options for transport.

Community development is quite possible the most powerful tool for social change at the disposal of the non-exorbitantly wealthy. Seeing the success of Ordinary Spokes should be an example to any who would doubt their own ability to change the world around them.

I hope that Ordinary Spokes continues to flourish and create positive change in this city for years to come.

Check back next week as I finish off my look at Cycling in St. John’s by focusing on Bike Share, a student-run initiative which has been providing bikes to students since 2007.


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