Published in The Link Environment and Sustainability special issue, 36.14, Nov 23
If you bike to school, do yourself a favour and pedal over to Le Petit Vélo Rouge—a collectively run community bike organization in the PS building of the Loyola Campus.
If you don’t know where that is, go behind the Vanier Library, next to the parking lot. See that warehouse-looking building? It’s in the second-most southerly door of that, on the west side, so not in the alley, but starting from—you know what?
Just follow the signs.
Inside, you’ll find a small room with lots of bike stuff—in fact, half the room is bikes. Most of the other half consists of boxes of bike parts, tires in massive piles and frames strewn around like skeletons after a really windy Halloween. There are workstations. There are tools. There are nice people.
“I like to say that we’re like the little sister of Right to Move, but we’re our own independent bike shop,” says Morgan Rehme, a board member and one of Le Petit Vélo Rouge’s founders. The sister shop got its own room—so to speak—in September, and is getting to work.
The store operates like the downtown bike shop, Right to Move. Le Petit Vélo Rouge is non-hierarchical, providing a space to repair bikes—and to learn how to repair bikes. It’s DIY, so the more experienced volunteers might show you what to do, but the onus is on you to fix your ride.
You can also learn to build a bike from scratch. While the whole thing is a bit messy right now, it has taken off its training wheels, and is open and functional for repairs if you need them.
Also like Right to Move, Le Petit Vélo Rouge will provide workshops on subjects such as bike repairs, best practices for winter biking, and more—according to Rehme.
“This is really an opportunity for people to learn,” she says. Non-students are welcome, but students have a lot to gain. The shop is on campus, they don’t have to pay for expensive repairs, and they can learn new skills.
“First establish yourself and then try to duplicate the model,” says Mauricio Buschinelli—another board member—on the similarities between the two bike shops. He says that LPVR was inspired by community bike shops in general. Le Petit Vélo Rouge diverges from Right to Move in certain aspects, like selling bikes.
Rehme says they started in 2010 as a group inside Right to Move that restored and sold bikes, before deciding to become an independent shop. Conversely, Right to Move doesn’t sell so much these days; they have a base of fee-paying members. But LPVR will sell the bikes that its volunteers build until the shop is self-sustaining.
Self-sustainability is a long-term objective, according to Buschinelli. He says all the startup costs were met by grants, but the operations shouldn’t have to be. The plan, he says, is to sell bikes, build a base of members, offer a service, and gradually wean from the funding of Sustainable Concordia and the Sustainability Action Fund.
Rehme says they want to be fully up and running by spring, but you can go now to start building a winter bike—if you’re so inclined. She thinks it’s a good idea.
“The end goal for all of us is the same,” Rehme says. “To get more people on the road.”