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Toronto’s new Public Bike Repair Stations

April 5, 2016  |  By Blair Smith

Steam Whistle Brewing installed the first public bike repair station in 2013 at their Toronto headquarters. What happened next was completely unexpected.

It’s a beautiful day. The sky is blue. You’re out on your bicycle pedalling and taking in the sights and sounds of the city around you. Everything is awesome. Then it happens. Pffft. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk. Squeeeak. You know these sounds. Something needs to be adjusted or fixed; and you’re not prepared. All is not lost, Steam Whistle Brewing, an independent craft brewery in Toronto, is coming to the rescue of Canadian urban cyclists in need of an emergency repair with their public bike repair station program.

They installed the first public bike repair station in 2013 outside The Roundhouse, Steam Whistle’s iconic Toronto headquarters. The bike repair station was purchased by its Environmental Committee to support Clean Air Commute for brewery employees. What happened next was completely unexpected. Not only did the employees love it; but so did the cycling community in Toronto. Lots of people started using it and talking about it. The public bike repair station became an overnight sensation. This positive response inspired the Steam Whistle team to fully get behind this idea. They invested in more of these stations and started collaborating with different partners to install and maintain them. So far 10 public bike repair stations have been installed in Ontario and Alberta; with more planned and expansion into British Columbia in the near future.

Steam Whistle Bike Repair Station

Manufactured by Urban Racks, an innovative bicycle parking and accessories company in Vancouver, each public bike repair station features a bike mount with 10 essential tools secured on cables, a heavy duty tire pump and a bike rack (for locking to). Steam Whistle pays for the installation and maintenance of the station. There’s also a secure box to lock the tools in. So far, however, vandalism hasn’t been an issue so the tools tend to be freely available 24 hours a day wherever the stations are installed. “We haven’t had to fix one yet.” said Sybil Taylor, Steam Whistle Communications Director, smiling. “The communities we’re in are really proud of having them. They’re unique. For the Simcoe Mountain Bike Club it’s become a landmark that cyclists are now calling the Steam Whistle parking lot.”

This is one of the more innovative examples of Steam Whistle’s contribution to building strong urban cycling infrastructures in cities across Canada. Their long time support of the cycling community in Canada has included everything from advocacy to sponsoring bike courier challenges, road and downhill mountain bike racing events and cycling teams. In 2010, they hosted Bixi’s 1000 member party which was a critical step to launching the bike sharing service in Toronto. Perhaps their most popular sponsorship is being the official cold beer provider at the end of the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 200km ride that’s held annually in both Ontario and Alberta. This past year, The Good Beer Folks of Steam Whistle handed out 20,000 beers to thirsty finishers—which has grown from 13,000 when they started. In 2012, co-founder Cam Heaps gave a glimpse into the fun loving culture by riding the “SteamCycle” draught bike for the entire ride, dispensing beer to supporters along the way. “There’s a natural relationship, a like-mindedness, between craft beer and cycling that we’ve tapped into with these activities.” said Taylor. “And we’ve had a lot of fun doing them.”

The communities we’re in are really proud of having them. They’re unique. In one place it’s become a landmark that cyclists are now calling the Steam Whistle parking lot. – Sybil Taylor

(Images courtesy of: Steam Whistle Brewing)

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