As temperatures rise, the trees are in full bloom, and particular restrictions start to lift, it’s a great time to get out and see your city. Coincidentally, June is Cycling Month in the City of London and in order to kick things off, we spoke to Daniel Hall, Executive Director at London Cycle Link and Squeaky Wheel Bike Co-Op at 809 Dundas Street in Old East Village.
There’s a large cycling culture in the Forest City and that can be especially said of OEV. Squeaky Wheel, operating in their current location since 2018, is a volunteer-run, member-based, DIY bike repair shop that welcomes everyone. They continue to offer access to affordable, refurbished bikes, and tune-up services, with the intention of being a community hub for cycling in the city.
“This was a brainchild of many people in the community since 2012. A call was put out to other cyclists in the city to determine our needs. At the time it was determined that advocacy was the need and that formed London Cycle Link” Daniel told us.
From there, in order to work with City recommendations, the organization set out to get more people on the roads cycling in London.
“One of the ways we thought we could do our part to encourage this was to create a space for cyclists where they could have community, learn and gain support from each other, and be a hub of activity and events.”
Come 2016 and following a City of London Community Grant, Squeaky Wheel was born and has continued to offer support and encouragement to anyone who wants to augment their skills or develop completely new ones.
Daniel said, “the bread and butter of what we do is do-it-yourself repairs where you can come in, use our tools, meet other people, learn new skills, and feel more empowered.”
At the outset of the global pandemic, Squeaky Wheel closed their doors to DIY repairs while regrouping for best practices moving forward. At first, offering affordable used bikes for sale online, Squeaky Wheel has been putting forth many initiatives to engage the community and help others. Namely, the Co-Op started offering free bikes to essential workers with much success prior to opening by appointment, to ensure those in need of tools and resources could access them.
Although the initiative depleted their resources for sale, Daniel assured us they’re working to catch up on bike repairs because “everyone wants to ride right now and it’s awesome, it’s a new problem to have.”
This speaks to an ongoing and growing popularity for cycling, whether for pure enjoyment, exercise, or transportation throughout London and it’s core. With the Dundas Construction Project beginning on May 4, 2020, this includes an updated bike lane along Dundas as part of the East-West Bikeway which will connect OEV to Downtown and subsequent areas throughout the city. This project involved an extensive evaluation and planning period that included an immense amount of feedback from cyclists and the community at large.
According to Daniel, the possibilities are exciting and “the appeal of being on Dundas, for us, is being on a bike lane from an access perspective.”
Although there have been challenges in the proposed design, he confirmed it’s important to consider the potential positive impacts newly developed and expanded bike lanes can have on a community.
“I think the goal is when you give people safe, protected infrastructure, like what’s going to be [on Dundas], people will ride more. When you give people safety, it really is a joyous moment, and people can do a lot more” he told us.
“As Dundas is built out, the TVP Downtown all the way to Old East, as Colborne gets extended, as the bones of a network build a safe network, more and more people are going to be able to ride. We’re really excited about the bike lane and how it can be a benefit for businesses along the strip.”
In Daniel’s experience, you discover so much when you’re out for a ride. There’s something about the pace and places cycling takes you. It can open new doors to establishments and things you may not have experienced before. Further to that and considering the opportunities presented by the East-West Bikeway, Daniel acknowledged that new ways to see cyclists supporting businesses in the area, and vice versa, are necessary. In these early stages, the organization intends to profile Dundas businesses you can access with increased safety by bike. As well, cycling amenities, such as secure parking and fix-it stations available, will play a large role in making the cycling experience more accessible and appealing. Therefore, Squeaky Wheel will work to ensure awareness of the supports available to cyclists in OEV to help get them out discovering (or rediscovering) what this neighbourhood has to offer.