Shifting Gears

Gate City Bike Co-op is in search of a new home

Telegraph photo by ADAM URQUHART Co-founder of the Gate City Bike Co-op John Burkitt tinkers away on a bicycle inside the work space on Spring Street.

NASHUA – The Gate City Bike Co-op has kept low-income city residents pedaling forward by offering free bicycles and bicycle repairs, but to continue this service, organizers need to find a new home.

After about 18 months of operation, this dilemma arose now that Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter officials are planning to convert the co-op’s current Spring Street home into transitional housing. This means organizers will lose their space at the old Sacred Hearts School around this time next year.

Many new and old clients rely on their service to get to work, run errands, go to appointments and just get around. For many, a bicycle is their only form of transportation.

“What this represents is year-round reliable transportation to a slice of the Nashua area,” co-founder John Burkitt said.

So far, the co-op has given out more than 500 free bicycles to low-income/at-risk residents of the Greater Nashua area. They have also provided repairs for roughly 250 bicycles brought to them by clients. Each bike the co-op gives away costs them about $30, and all their labor is donated. The space they work in and all of the bikes they receive are also donated. Additionally, about 20 mechanics rotate in and out of the co-op, volunteering their time.

Telegraph photo by ADAM URQUHART Top: Co-founder of the Gate City Bike Co-op John Burkitt throws his co-op smock on while getting ready to work on one of the bicycles.

After providing so much assistance, the co-op is now reaching out to the community for a little help themselves. The hope is to find someone in the community who can provide them with a space, whether that be a basement, garage, workshop or anything else. Ideally, they are looking for a space with a couple thousand square feet.

“We want to take any suggestions we can get,” Burkitt said. “Nothing is too crazy because at this point, we’re going to have to be inventive in order to continue.”

The co-op has about 12 months to come up with some sort of an idea to continue operating elsewhere before the soup kitchen guts the building and turns it into transitional housing. Burkitt said the date they need to be out by has not yet been defined.

“John and I came to the same conclusion at about the same time, months after this was started, and that was, we’re not just providing bikes, helmets and locks,” co-founder Don Pare said. “We’re providing hope.”

So, they will have to shift gears if they want to continue pedaling this service. More information on the co-op can be found online at, https://gatecitybikecoop.org/.