BENNINGTON — A Saturday afternoon “Bike Bash” attracted a steady stream of area residents as the nonprofit Bennington Bike Hub spread the word about its goals and plans.
Group members met with bicycle enthusiasts, swapping stories and ideas, and offered tips on bike maintenance and safety in the parking lot in front of the former Highlander Bicycle shop on Benmont Avenue.
Al Bashevkin, president of the newly formed nonprofit, said initial efforts are focused on acquiring the stock of the closed bike shop and reopening it with a nonprofit format.
“I’m impressed,” he said. “We have 12 to 15 volunteers here, and we have had a steady flow of people who want to have their bikes looked at, or are interested in what we’re doing. They’re excited about opening up the bike hub. This is what we were looking for.”
Among the volunteers, Julius Rosenwald helped inspect bikes and offered residents information on keeping a chain rust-free, or maintaining brakes, gears and other “tune-up” essentials for bike owners.
Select Board Vice Chairwoman Jeanne Conner said she and Chairwoman Jeannie Jenkins and others in town government support the nonprofit group as addressing an important piece of the outdoor recreation environment Bennington wants to promote.
“The town has been very supportive of this,” Bashevkin said.
The hope is to emulate nonprofit groups like the Old Spokes Home in Burlington, a nonprofit offering new and used bikes, repairs and maintenance; lessons and information, and sponsoring community events and advocating on bicycle-related issues.
Madison Kremer, a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors, said, “We got a lot of comments and feedback, which will be helpful to help us shape what we do next. We don’t have a solid plan, but we have the website, and Facebook page, and we’re mostly trying to get the word out right now.”
“Part of what we’re doing,” Bashevkin said, “is doing our initial fundraising in order to be able to do the purchasing of the [bicycle] store, the assets of the store and to hire staff, so we are pretty focused on that right now.”
He said he couldn’t predict when those goals will be met but added, “The community is ready for it; it’s just that we need the resources to open it up.”
Long-term, the group’s stated vision is to create “a dynamic cycling community where bikes are accessible to all, where health and wellness are celebrated, where young people are empowered, and where cycling is a lifelong activity.”