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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Beacon Bits -- "For the People, By the People"

Ironically, I am posting this blog entry on the day the federal government shut down. But don't be alarmed, People's Bicycle is still open for business!
With a name like People's Bicycle, you'd expect good customer service and a user-friendly environment. That's exactly what you get from this warm and congenial team
From left to right, Sarah, Jon, Bryan, Kyle, Aaron and Kantu
Sarah Womer has her own  venture of 'transforming waste into community' with Zero to Go
of local bike enthusiasts and avid techies. Now located at 72 Maple Street (on a quiet residential street, not far from the high school and Memorial Park) in a large open garage space suitable for repairs, assembly, storage and supplies, People's Bicycle has already been in business for 4 years in Beacon. A little off the beaten path from its last location on Chestnut Street, it is definitely in a suitable environment for a growing business.
Jon Miles, Manager and Owner, is personable and honest about the work that is
required to adjust or repair the bike you have and want to keep without making you feel inadequate or unsavvy about your unfamiliarity with new equipment and improved bicycles for ergonomic and satisfying cycling, without any sales pressure or hype to make a new purchase. (I'm sure he can speak excellent "bike" with those who are more knowledgeable than I as well.) Educated in economics and political science in college, Jon exudes a comfort about his vision of using bicycle transport for mundane tasks of daily living; he has given up using a car, albeit a challenge, perhaps less so in our locale, reminding me that a bicycle is the most efficient mode of transportation in terms of energy expenditure.
People's Bicycle (PB) sponsored some of the new bike racks, with the PB logo,  near Key Food on Main Street
Designed and manufactured by Dero, an American company in Minneapolis, MN
with assistance from local NYC rep Ben Cramer and community aficionados, Pat Manning and Justin Riccobono
Looking around the shop, you would surmise that this is not necessarily a shop for the bicycle racer, as you notice the baskets and saddle bags, bicycles built for two, and carriage add-ons for riding with small children in tow. "Team PB" is knowledgeable about the integration of cycling within the lifestyle found in  different European countries and cities - like Amsterdam and Berlin - so this global sensibility makes it obvious why there is a map of the world in the office. Jon seemed to enjoy my story from childhood as I reminisced about an aunt in Norway who cycled for daily shopping errands with her American relative tucked in between the packages on the back of her bike, just as he showed his curiosity about an invention in Trondheim that allows bikers to connect to a track that assists them in getting up steep hills. Taking time to listen to a customer is the neighborly thing to do. Jon gets it.
At People's Bicycle, there is a vision about creating a bicycle culture for real people and it is palpable. I came into the shop to seek an adjustment to an inexpensive, but new, Schwinn bike I had recently purchased to get out onto the Rail Trail in Dutchess County. Before I could actually bring the bike in, I had a couple of phone conversations and an emergency visit to help put my new bike rack together and secure it to my car.  I was even offered a pick-up in the richshaw-pedicycle that Beaconites have witnessed Jon travel down Main Street!

I appreciated the patience and kindness during these contacts. I also witnessed these qualities with a variety of customers visiting the shop on two occasions: a family retrieving their tried and true bicycles, a father with two children in tow who was more interested in his own bike fantasies as he focused on a new "fat bike" and ignored the excitement of his son looking around the shop, and a pre-teen who showed up as one would arrive at an ER with his bike emergency -- a chain derailment that needed to be fixed quickly so he could get back into action.
Kyle and Aaron focused on problem solving

My bike was ready in several days with the promised work that had been previously estimated and assessed by Jon and Kyle. All ready to go, I left a happy customer, who now felt confident about putting the bicycle rack back onto the car, ready for the trail, knowing I had made some new friends who will be there when I need my tune-ups. Or basket. Or - down the road a bit - a large tricycle made for a geriatric cyclist who has lost her balance!

Food for thought: My confidence and faith in a younger generation who are authentically living the values of their parents' generation -- the quest for decreased pollution, simpler lifestyles, and building connections in community -- was restored  once again after getting a closer look at how this team is running their business and living their lives as role models in the community. I think Jon, with his education, people skills and affable personality, would make a great city councilman or member of Beacon's planning board. With his forward thinking mindset, one could sense that the bike racks and shared-lane markings, known as "sharrows"* and the occasional group rides down Main Street are just the beginning of a what will become a solid bike presence in Beacon.

*Acknowledgements for Beacon's "sharrows" initiative
Mark Roland, Karla Raimundi, Linda Hubbard, Mark Wildonger, Scenic Hudson, Stowe Boyd, Beacon Streets and BeaconArts.
There is a current fundraiser through October 25th, with a modest goal of raising $1,150,
which focuses on expanding the sharrows in Beacon.
People's Bicycle has contributed a number of tune-ups to help support their efforts.
Other local vendors (Mountain Tops, Bank Square, Beacon Creamery and Tito's) are also participating.
Follow the link to the Indiegogo campaign, improving-main-street-beacon

People's Bicycle is a new member of BeaconArts




  1. The bike sharrows project grew out of a Climate Justice initiative, headed by Karla Raimundi of Clearwater. I made the slide presentationat the Clearwater meeting in Poughkeepsie in the fall of 2011, then again at the Beahive in Beacon. I then modified the presentation and presented it at a City Council meeting, where Mark Wildonger of Scenic Hudson approached with an idea for funding. Stowe Boyd did most of the grant writing, and the grant was awarded through the Beacon Arts group, with the help of then president Linda Hubbard. The Beacon Community Resource Center also gets credit for allowing the grant-required classes to be held in its facilities. They are very bicycle friendly, and have offered to be a "refresh" station, which will be very handy now that the link between Madame Brett park and Dennings Point is nearing completion.

    Mark Roland
    Bike Beacon

    1. Thanks Mark for the additional information and clarification of the early history of the "sharrows" project. If there is anyone else who was involved and not acknowledged, please know that there is no intention to exclude anyone. It is just a reminder that it "takes a village" to go from an idea to the execution of a plan and many helping hands along the way!