Making Provo Weird: The Provo Bicycle Collective

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Kate Chandler and Scott Manning are helping to build a community through bikes at the Provo Bicycle Collective. Photo: Talyn Sherer

You live in Provo and can’t afford to buy a new bike or pay for repairs at a shop. Maybe you want to learn how to take care of your bike or ride along the streets safely. Maybe you’re considering moving down past the point of the mountain and want to make sure you’ll be taken care of as a cyclist. If you fall into any of these scenarios, allow me to introduce you to a new friend: The Provo Bicycle Collective. Founded in November 2011, the collective is open Thursday through Saturday and staffed by volunteers who lend a helping hand to cyclists in need of the facility and its tools, asking only for a $5 donation per hour. SLUG sat down with two of the Collective board members and founders, Scott Manning and Kate Chandler, to find out what it is all about.  

The shop is located in a row of industrial garages in a Westside neighborhood, and is usually full of complete bikes and parts crowding the space with just barely enough room for you to get your bike over to the workspace. Getting to this point—having a garage filled with bikes—was a big challenge. “It was super DIY,” says Manning. He, Chandler and their friend, Zac Whitmore, pooled together some money to cover rent and gather the necessary supplies. With some generous bike and parts donations from the SLC Collective and Boise Bicycle Project, their funds and people willing to sell tools and equipment for cheap, things came together to make the Collective a reality. The Provo and Salt Lake Collectives have worked together by giving referrals to each other and sharing parts. They have also worked with local bike shops, sending customers to them for new tubes and tires, as well as some looking for older parts. 
 
Supporting the community is the overarching goal that the duo seems to have for the Collective, which earned them a LocalMotive Award from Local First Provo in the Fall of 2012 for their promotion of “localism” in the city. Manning says, “Bikes give us this whole idea that we can build this community of things we like with artists, musicians and local businesses, and make it better.” Manning and Chandler are a part of the tight-knit group of the Provo cultural scene’s movers, alongside owners of hip, local businesses and musical venues. They’re also pretty tight with the police and the city’s bike-friendly mayor, John Curtis. “We can literally do anything here,” he says. 
 
Chandler agrees with the sentiment. “We’re on a mission to make Provo weird,” she says, laughing. They both see the great potential of the area, with so many college students who want to be social and active. They consider it a success any time they can get kids off campus and into the heart of the city to hang out. Manning adds, saying, “Provo is a melting pot with two colleges in the area, and, culturally, it’s changed a ton in the last four years … In the past, there have been these two kinds of people living here [LDS and non-LDS] who really didn’t like each other, but we have found a very common ground with bicycles.” They see that bikes are helping make their more community-oriented vision of Provo become a reality. 
 
The Collective also sponsors group rides, including a weekly Monday night ride, all year long.  After a quick safety pep talk, groups of up to 65 hit the streets for a nighttime cruise. They sometimes get local restaurants to give a small discount for the bikers and, in turn, they bring the whole group over to get some eats. Manning says, “We like to leave an imprint on people, that this is what bikes are doing. People are riding them, and we are supporting this business because they support us.” Other rides have been organized with specific themes such as bike safety or a ride of silence, held recently in honor of Douglas Crow, who was struck and killed while riding his bike earlier this year. 
 
Beyond group rides, the Collective has hosted other events such as a winter biking workshop and a bike safety class, and also provides free bike valet service at the local farmers market. Manning and Chandler are most proud of organizing Fusion Fest last August. The event was similar to Crucial Fest in SLC, aiming to highlight Provo’s hardcore scene while mixing the shows with local bands representing other genres. They plan on making it happen next year, too. 
 
Throughout the nation, urban biking is on the rise, and the folks at the Collective hope to keep Provo ahead of the curve. Provo was recently named a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists—the third city in Utah to receive the distinction. The Collective will certainly be a force to keep up the momentum. Right now, they are hoping to push for more bike racks downtown and bike lanes on University Avenue (the main thoroughfare of town). They also aim to teach more people how to ride in a city safely and confidently.  The future of biking in Provo is bright, thanks in large part to the Collective. 
 
The Provo Bicycle Collective is located at 49 N. 1100 W. #2, in Provo. Monday night group rides meet at 9 p.m., at 400 N. 400 E. Stay in touch with them on their website, provobikecollective.org, or through Facebook.
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