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At 21 years young Bike Works teaches much more than how to fix a bike.

Posted by Deborah Drake


SVP Fast Pitch alum, Bike Works is turning 21 years old this year. They are sporting a new logo and look; and with a new strategic plan that guides them through 2020, they are looking forward to having a greater impact in the communities they serve; and forging partnerships with more schools and communities.  

Liberating bikes across the Puget Sound so they can be put to better use.
Executive Director, Deb Salls has been leading the Bike Works mission for the past 6 years. Bike Works promotes the bicycle as a vehicle for change to empower youth and build resilient communities.  She and her team are wrapping up the strategic plan that they put in place in 2012 and provided guidance for Bike Works to make a greater impact through 2016, Bike Works was very successful in reaching their goals in this plan)

Impact Report Card 2017

In 2011, Bike Works served about 250 youth and since then has experienced lots of expansion (in youth served and the programs that do it) between 2012 and 2016.

Salls shared that Bike Works programs (like the Earn-a-Bike program, summer camps and Kids Bike-o-Rama) served 1325 youth in 2016; and the number of youth served in 2017 will be even higher. (By my math, Bike Works is serving 5X+ more youth and engaging the communities they are part of.)

Bike Works has been a SVP Fast Pitch Innovator three times since 2013–and each time they’ve applied, the experience itself, the connections made, and the lessons learned have contributed to their continued growth and success.

With a new strategic plan as their road map, Salls explained that Bike Works will:

·    Expand programs in Southeast Seattle

·    Forge partnership with every school in Southeast Seattle by 2020

·    Do more work with 3rd to 5th grade students

·    Help to create more rides clubs

·    Offer more job training opportunities

·    Champion the idea of bringing bike repair and bike education to communities that do not have any access shops via the BikeMobile our transportable big blue bicycle repair workshop.

Bike Works continues to develop partnership programs that go out into the communities because it’s harder for youth to get to their main location in Columbia City–which is where the BikeMobile program comes into play.

Presently, the BikeMobile visits eight different neighborhoods weekly during the summer. You’ll find the BikeMobile at parks and community centers offering free and sliding scale bike repair services and bike education staffed by youth from their jobs training program.  Stay current with them here: https://bikeworks.org/bike-shop/mobile-bike-shop-find-bikemobile/

The investment in creating the BikeMobile has paid off for job skills and training–not to mention making the Bike Works brand and mission more visible in the Greater Puget Sound.

The first BikeMobile pilot vehicle was a renovated old van. It was quite literally “the vehicle” that brought free to low cost bike repair, education, and training to communities in the bike desert of South Seattle. It travels farther afield these days. To find out where the BikeMobile will be next visit their calendar.

“The pitch process helped us to solidify the outcomes we wanted to have with using the BikeMobile (Even if you don’t get win money from SVP Fast Pitch competition, it’s worth going through the process, to better define the purpose of your pitch and the financials. The exposure of your project and organization (to the SVP Fast Pitch Community) could potentially attract a funder–as well as mentors, and even board members.” ~Deborah Salls

Bike Works used their SVP Fast Pitch experiences and wisdom gained when applying in 2014 to the Boeing Employee’s Community Fund. Bike Works repurposed their SVP Fast Pitch wisdom to win a grant that they used to help fund purchasing a NEW BikeMobile.


“The Pitch has come in handy on more than one occasion. The bones of the structure support effective communication to potential funders and other grants. And, besides looking for money, we are always looking for bike donations.” ~Deb Salls

yellow house 6

Does your neighborhood need a Bike Works Community Bike Shop to create community, jobs, and service bikes?

In 2016, 7,500+ bikes were donated to Bike Works. The ones that come from garages are “the bomb” because they are typically in better shape and easier to refurbish.

The Bike Works Social Enterprise Bike Shop in Columbia City makes up 40% of the income in Bike Works budget and is generated from repairs and bike sales. There are still no bike shops 10 miles to the south of Columbia City, making the BikeMobile program a unique solution to an ongoing problem. More community-based bike shops and bike education programming are needed and Bike Works knows how to make them succeed and be sustainable.


Using the BikeMobile, Bike Works is creating “pop-up shops” for bike repair, a plan they developed after doing a feasibility study a few years ago.

“For every new bike, someone who buys it may wind up being serviced by Bike Works and eventually when they are done with it they can donate it to Bike Works.” And then there is the opportunity to partner with bike sharing services that are finally taking hold in the Seattle area.

BikeMobile driver 1

Bike Works as an organization likes the idea of stationless bike sharing (like Spin and LimeBikes) that are starting out strong in the Seattle area.

Spin, known for their orange bikes supported Bike Works when they first entered the Seattle market and Salls shared that they want to do more with Bike Works, because they imagine having a need for bike mechanics–and Bike Works has proven itself skilled at training bike mechanics with an entrepreneurial mindset for business.

LimeBike recently launched its bike sharing service in August. And more bike sharing companies may also coming to Seattle. Bike Works supports the free market model and, it has been great to see the stationless bikes on the streets throughout South Seattle, it shows that there really is a need

Previously, the bike sharing program Pronto had a limited number of stations and area where the bikes could be docked.  The stationless system allows bikes to end up anywhere which shows you the need is far and wide. The limited stations invariably limited ridership. The Seattle Bike Blog reported that there were more rides taken on the new stationless system in one week than the previous system. 

Since stationless bike sharing services won’t necessarily be relocating the bikes back to downtown, the need for more community bike shops and trained bike mechanics (for people who love their bikes and appreciate biking as an eco-friendly mode of transportation) only becomes greater, suggests Salls.

Salls pointed out, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics said a few years ago that the bike mechanic is one of the fasting growing occupations. Our job skills training leads to other career opportunities. Mastery of soft skills and being a bike mechanic can lead to other more complex mechanic and engineering roles, design of street infrastructure, and leadership within the bike industry.”

Why I Fix Bikes

Where might the next Bike Work’s brick and mortar community bike shop go? Maybe your neighborhood needs one. “An empty storefront in busy areas would serve well as a pop-up location,” says Salls, “To connect with patrons willing to help replicate what has been created in Columbia City would be one of the next steps.
Two Wheels.  Endless Possibilities!

Learn more about how to get involved and follow their continued progress at https://bikeworks.org/

Take note and stay tuned. This is the first of a new series on SVP Fast Pitch Innovator Updates. More progress reports to come on SVP Fast Pitch Innovators doing GREAT work still in all parts of the Greater Puget Sound. Got an update on your organization as the alum you are? We’d love to hear from you.

Final Showdown, tickets will be on sale 9/5.  Set your calendar now with a reminder!





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