One of my biggest regrets from my two and a half years in Washington DC is missing out on the weekly Cupcake Ramble ride hosted by Bicycle Space. The shop piqued my interest with a poetic ode to the wonders of a bicycle (and of brownies) by producing a video drawing visual parallels between bike mechanics and baking, of all things. Upon seeing this video, I became an instant fan of the shop that produced it.
Bicycle Space DC effectively utilizes video content and social media to promote bicycling. As far as I know, It’s the only bike shop in DC doing so. Videos include their “Friends of the Shop” series, special event coverage, and advocacy event highlights. Notably, their videos emphasize people and events, not products.
Bicycle Space is first and foremost about promoting their shop as a community space. They emphasize this with free mechanic workshops, weekly rides and yoga, and special outings centered around cultural events in DC. Groups bike trips have included documentary screenings, soccer games, infrastructure advocacy, river clean-ups, dance parties, and so on and so forth. In 2012, MuralsDC and Bicycle Space DC organized a city-wide bicycle tour designed to highlight the murals around the city that were part of their graffiti prevention program.
“More so than most shops, we default to fixing what you have and don’t always need to resort to selling you something new,” states Bicycle Spaces’ services page. Their strategy offers an added respite from the constant sales ploys that bombard the consumer, which is my default identity in reference to any business. Bicycle Space is one of those places where I feel less pressured to buy, and therefore am more inclined to do so. Bicycle Space is one of those shops where biking is for the masses, not just the elite. That’s some good insight selling!
Advocacy is the next aspect of Bicycle Space that, in the scope of DC bike shops, puts this business above and beyond. Bicycle Space hosts The Assembly, a movement dedicated to making Washington DC the #1 cycling city in the US. They propose to do this through monthly advocacy strategy meetings and focused efforts to involve and inspire people, aka “Street Actions.” Most recently, they’ve been advocating for Tommy Wells, a bike-friendly politician running for DC mayor in 2014. Another strategy they propose involves “using video content and social media to galvanize a wide audience and stir the public to take progressive action.”
The online advocacy promotion is great in theory, but I unfortunately haven’t seen too much action here from The Assembly in the past few months. They may be making progress in other ways, but since I moved away from DC in June, I can only gauge their activity level by online presence. The last Assembly meeting I heard about happened this past April; the last facebook post was in mid-July.
Now, the DC bicycle community remains close to my heart–it was my home for two and a half years and the place where I discovered the wonders of pedal-powered commuting. The district is often ranked among the top 10 bike-friendly cities in the US (and is often considered one of the most improved), but it’s hard to keep up with active networks in other cities like BikePortland.org. Still, I would also love to see the district higher on the list. Perhaps DC needs more places and spaces like Bicycle Space (with an active Assembly) to get more locals thinking about bicycle community and bike-friendly transportation infrastructure.
Friends of the Shop Video: