TAMPA — After seven years, the Tampa Bay Bike Co-op is closing up shop.
The organization, which has been dedicated to helping local cyclists learn how to maintain and repair their bicycles on their own, held one last sale and barbecue Saturday before the staff closed down the Seminole Heights garage for good.
All the proceeds from the sale will go to help fund a bike project for The Well, a non-profit dedicated to helping the homeless, said board member Dana Putney. What parts, tools and bikes that didn’t sell will be donated to the St. Petersburg Bike Co-op.
“It’s definitely a bittersweet thing,” said Putney, 26. “Co-ops don’t necessarily last that long and ours has stayed around for quite a while in Tampa.”
A lot of people came by the garage Saturday to say farewell, Putney said. The members of the co-op are sad, but they understand why the board wanted to change things up.
“It got to be too much like a bike shop,” said Dave Horst, president of the cooperative’s board.
The organization formed in 2007 and started meeting once a month at the Transitions Art Gallery on Columbus Avenue, hosting clinics that taught people how to use tools and do minor bike repairs. Eventually, the cooperative moved into a stall at a storage facility at Waters and Armenia avenues, where the owner let them operate rent-free, Putney said.
Bike-riders from all over the Tampa area came to the co-ops stall to buy used parts and frames and get one-on-one attention from the volunteers who helped them tinker with their bikes. Recently, the group’s 10 or so regular volunteers were working unpaid shifts every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
And because all the volunteers also work full-time jobs, the hours were starting to be too demanding.
“At that point, you’re taxing volunteers so much that it doesn’t make sense,” Horst said.
So the board decided to go in a different direction.
“I think we could make a bigger impact in the community if we weren’t spending all our hours in the shop,” Putney said.
The co-op no longer will operate the garage, but instead will focus on finding new ways to reach out to Tampa’s cycling community, Putney said. That includes working with organizations like The Well and God’s Pedal Power Ministry, which provides free bicycles to adults and children.
There is a large community of people who really enjoy riding bikes on Tampa’s streets, Putney said. And the area has gotten “a bad reputation” for being unsafe or unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists.
While bike safety is certainly a concern to the staff of the co-op, they want to continue to teach people to love bikes and improve Tampa’s bicycling image after the shop closes, Putney said.
“We’re eager to make Tampa a better city for cyclists and not just spend all of our time here fixing bikes,” she said.