I hear a lot of nice things about Three Rivers Market lately, and one of them is how good they are to their bicycling customers. In addition to TRM's bright green bike racks placed right by the door of their new location, they also have a public-use bike repair stand on the patio. This installation includes a tire pump, bike stand, and assorted tools for bike tune-ups. A sign bolted to an upside-down U-shaped bar advertises the location of Tennessee Valley Bikes.
TRM manager Jacki Arthur approached TVB with the idea of installing a public work stand like the one some of her employees saw on a visit to Seward Co-op in Minneapolis. "Scott (Smith) and I immediately recognized it as a good idea, one worthy of Tennessee Valley Bikes," writes Eric Ohlgren, one of the owners of TVB, in an e-mail. TVB designed, paid for, and installed the stand using some parts purchased from Bike Fixtation, and some they made themselves.
Asked if he plans to install other bike stands around town, Ohlgren answers mysteriously, "Let's just say that we have something up our sleeve regarding that."
I first saw the new bike repair station during Hollerpalooza in October. People participating in the Neighborhood Bike Ride crowded around it snapping pictures with their cell phones. They seemed intrigued. An older man dressed in Lycra remarked it was the first time he had seen something like this.
I know one other place that offers free tools for bike repair. In August 2011, the Bike Collective established a workshop in the basement of the Marble City Brewing Co. (708 East Depot Ave.) where they hold twice-a-week bike repair sessions, Sunday and Tuesday 5 p.m.-8 p.m. These free repair sessions are great for novice bikers who need a more experienced guide to help them through the ins and outs of bike repair. But for a person who knows their way around bikes, the stand on the TRM patio is perfect. You can work on your bike on your own time.
Arthur writes in an e-mail, "We are extremely happy with the partnership [with TVB.] We hope the existence of the co-op brings a healthier environment, healthier people, and a healthier community. Partnerships like this help knit together and strengthen our individual efforts."
One blustery November day I was sitting on the TRM patio trying to ambush and question people who used the bike repair station, but no one was using it that day. I was chatting with Frank Callo (who used it the day before in an attempt to change his bike pedals) when I realized a little event was happening. A kid named Elijah Collins, age 7, was racing around the patio and parking lot on his scooter, hopping curbs and generally hot-dogging around while his dad, minding a baby, looked on. The kid had some impressive moves. Children on the patio cheered. Grown-ups sitting at tables smiled over their gypsy stew. I looked around nervously for the sign usually posted on schools, churches, and grocery stores, "No skateboarding, no bicycling, no scooters," but there wasn't one.