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History of EBC

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. On August 1 of that year, the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society was officially born!

The original idea was to provide a do-it-yourself bike shop and bike recycling service to commuter cyclists in Edmonton. The EBC community bike shop, BikeWorks, is still the heart of EBC, but the organization has done much, much more over the last quarter century.

In the early 1990s, EBC launched a festival to celebrate the wonderous 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 bikey, 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, a critical mass ride and many other events.

For the past five years, Lunar Cycle has been reincarnated and expanded by EBC members and others in the community in the annual June Bike Month celebrations, centred 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. Although our participation is obscured in the past, WE know that the kernel of the idea began with us and was championed by others.

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, one of our more active members. It continued when the Edmonton Transit System called up and asked if we would consider funding - via a grant - racks for other routes, which EBC successfully accepted. The program has been operating since 1996 within the City of Edmonton.

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. Unsalvageable 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 105 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 our present home - a much-needed larger, more visible space which has allowed us to expand the services we offer to the community and improve our revenues by carrying more inventory and being in a more accessible space.

It’s been a long ride for EBC, marked by chaos; rusty clunkers; insolvency and solvency; some new, shiny parts; constant moves; enthusiasm; thousands of used bikes coming and going; amazing volunteers; happy staff; beautiful, sane members; lots of learning; bent tools; crazy people pretending to be sane, then 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; bitter staff; relentless staff; 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.

For over 25 years, EBC has been proud to promote commuter cycling and sustainable energy technology. 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 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 (to say nothing of the various funders we’ve had over the years, including CanadaTrust Environment Fund, EcoTrust, the Wild Rose Foundation and numerous casinos), we have prevailed to become the group we are today: a slightly obscure, hardworking fringe element teaching and assisting people in their choice to commute by bicycle.

last edited: May 26, 2011

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