The University of Toronto’s go-to bike service facility, Bikechain, has moved to a new location in the North Borden Building after several years of searching for a space for their growing organization.
Founded in September 2005, Bikechain is an organization that offers do-it-yourself bike repairs and services that are largely free of charge, funded through a dedicated student levy that was increased this year, following a referendum last spring. According to Bikechain, last year more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty members, used the facility. Therefore, to accommodate for the organization’s growth, Bikechain relocated from the basement of the Centre of International Experience (CIE)’s Cumberland House, to the North Borden Building at 563 Spadina Crescent in mid-August. The North Borden Building is a dramatic improvement from their previous location.
The new space, previously used as a storage facility, was renovated by U of T to accompany Bikechain’s needs. With the larger space, Bikechain now offers three times the tools and double the stands for bike repairs, as well as an online booking system for their bike-lending program. The new space also allows Bikechain to be more community friendly. Due to the limited space at their Cumberland House location, many had to be turned away. Now, Bikechain has a reception desk and waiting area — equipped with comfortable couches, a fridge, and microwave, as well as books and board games to occupy visitors as they wait. Despite having not fully set up yet — there were a number of delays caused by construction — the new space has already seen an increase in traffic. Throughout the week, nearly all the work stands and many bike users fill the office. “[The previous location] was in a basement, and we didn’t really have a storefront. This location is on street level, which increases traffic,” explains Bikechain Administrative Coordinator Dominic Wong. This year, he expects Bikechain to serve over 4,500 members of the U of T community. “We’ve had a lot of support from the U of T administration, faculty, and students because they recognize it as something they can get behind. It benefits the school population and is good for sustainability,” says Wong.
Previous Bikechain Coordinator and current board member Toby Bowers, speaks of the long process that led to finding a new space. “I started speaking with people in student life, people in the sustainability office, people in facilities and services…I would explain to them how badly we needed extra space, so over time enough people had it in the back of their mind.” Eventually, one of the property managers at U of T offered Bikechain their current space. However, this will not be the organization’s permanent location. While it will stay put for the next couple of years, Bikechain’s ultimate goal is to permanently locate to the UTSU’s proposed Student Commons project. “Part of our occupancy agreement with the university is that once the Student Commons area is available, we move,” says Bowers. However, the project was delayed by the administration for a year this summer, citing ongoing conflicts between student divisions. Regardless, significant construction is needed at 230 College St., the future home of the Student Commons.
In the meantime, Bowers hopes that their current location will help Bikechain continue to expand, stating: “It’s a good opportunity to redevelop some of the community that we didn’t have the space to have before. So I’m very much excited for the new space and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will change and evolve over the years.”