Cégep de Sainte-Foy students run a bike shop to promote urban cycling

How students promote urban cycling through a teeny-tiny fix-it shop

Wheels: Gabrielle Côté and Jacques Bissonette at work. ‘We’re not here to make money,’ says Côté.

Wheels: Gabrielle Côté and Jacques Bissonette at work. ‘We’re not here to make money,’ says Côté.

Cycling to school in the cold, or pestered by honking cars and trucks, is not everyone’s idea of a good time. But students at Cégep de Sainte-Foy are raising awareness for active transportation around Quebec City through their bicycle committee and repair shop.

The student-run group was formed two years ago to encourage cycling. “We really believe in active transportation,” says Gabrielle Côté, the 19-year-old head of the committee, which is part of the Cégep’s student association. Côté notes commuting to school or work by bicycle isn’t just good daily exercise, it’s good for the environment, too.

The bike shop, set up in a room at the school, provides affordable basic bike-repair services—$10 for a checkup, $5 to straighten a tire, and $3 to adjust the brakes. “We’re not here to make money,” says Côté.

The students learned to fix bikes through reading manuals and from friends who operate a shop at Laval University. The students who work in the shop are also keen to improve so they can do more complicated repairs. The shop is run by 10 volunteers, and is usually open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but times can vary to fit students’ schedules.

According to Côté, biking as a mode of transportation isn’t that common yet in Quebec City. “The main problem is the communication between the cars and the bikes,” she explains. She says since cycling is still a fairly rare pursuit in the city, drivers don’t know how to interact with cyclists, and vice-versa.
On average, students repair five to seven bikes per week. In the springtime that number jumps to 10 to 15 bikes weekly thanks to the warmer weather. The shop is open to both students and the public.

All the money made from repairs is used to buy equipment and to help fund cycling seminars and bicycle outings. The group hosts talks to inform people about the importance and benefits of everything from urban bike community to how to winterize a bike—a major issue in Quebec City, where it can snow straight through from October to May. The club also arranges “bike hikes,” where students cycle around the historic cobblestoned city, which was founded in 1608. These excursions are proving popular with bike enthusiasts—the last bike hike attracted 30 participants.

Future plans for Sainte-Foy’s cycling committee include making stickers to raise awareness of bike safety, and printing road maps that show how to get to the Cégep de Sainte-Foy by bike from different locations around the city.

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