Long Beach's Bike HUB: "Do It Yourself, Do It Together"

Dan Olmos - Photos by Greggory Moore

3:35pm | Early in the last decade, Dan Olmos, who today is the unofficial manager of the HUB Community Bike Center, felt U.S. intervention in Iraq had more to do with our country's hunger for oil than with the 9/11 attacks. And so, as an act of conscience, he traded in his car and took up bicycling full-time.

"I've been car-free ever since," he says today, "and it was the best move I ever did. I've gained a lot of friends — more friends than when I was driving a car. And you meet new friends every day, because riding a bicycle you're so approachable. … I felt more connected when I got onto a bicycle."

Before too long Olmos, who was born and bred in Los Angeles, found himself volunteering his time at Bicycle Kitchen, "a non-profit bicycle repair educational organization" located in L.A. And then he caught word that something similar was starting up down in Long Beach.

"I'd never witnessed a bicycle co-op [growing] from the ground up," he says. "It's always been my passion to be part of that community that gets our citizens on track and on bikes. … I want to be part of that."

The Bike HUB opened in April 2010, with Olmos continuing to volunteer his time each of the four days per week the space is open — and eventually even relocating here.

The Bike HUB is a 501(c)3 corporation specializing in bicycle recycling, taking donated bicycles and either rebuilding them or stripping them for parts with which to refurbish other bicycles. Whatever can't be salvaged — which is very little — is recycled.

"We keep thousands of pounds of metal and steel and crap out of the landfills, because we're recycling the material that we can't use, and everything we can use off the bikes goes to repair things," says Evan Kelly, the Bike HUB's volunteer program director. "I mean, there's no reason to buy new bolts when we've got a whole drawer full. … Even a bike that's torn in half, 90 percent of it's good. The only thing that we can't use is the frame. Everything else is good, down to the bearings on the wheels."

Kelly says the Bike HUB consistently has 60 to 80 bikes on hand, all of which are donated. So, too, were most of the tools on site. And the space is being donated by Hancock University.

Kelly estimates that the Bike HUB helps between five and 20 bicyclists per day get back on the road for minimal cost — something to which I can personally attest, as last week I brought in my new bike (received as a gift at Burning Man after the one I brought out there was stolen). The service I received included tightening the handlebars, replacing the seat and a wonky rear wheel, adjusting the brakes, and cleaning the dust out of the gears — all for a grand total of $20.

"We're really here for the community and not for customers," Kelly says.

Along those lines, Kelly hopes to augment the Bike HUB's offerings from repairs and its last-Sunday-of-the-month bike workshop to include a variety of offerings, such as bike safety classes for kids, "because a lot of the 'rules of the road'-type stuff you don't learn 'til you're 15 or 16 and learning to drive. But if you're on the road on a bike, you need to learn that stuff — where to expect cars and what all the traffic lights mean."1

To that general end, Kelly would like to see the City of Long Beach, self-proclaimed "The Most Bike Friendly City In America," step up a bit more, including eventually providing the Bike HUB with a permanent, rent-free home.

"It doesn't seem like the City has figured out how to do anything with us, when it seems pretty obvious that they should be doing all kinds of stuff," Kelly says. "They've got the Bike Station, which is kind of limited in what it can do, but it seems like that's who they really want to deal with. … We're getting funding through L.A. County to do workshops and stuff like that, but it seems the City of Long Beach is still a little lacking on that type of stuff. … That's the kind of stuff that bike-friendly communities should be doing. It's not just about people riding bikes. … [But] right now it seems like what they're mostly into is the infrastructure part."

Kelly says the Bike HUB is working to cultivating a reliable membership base of individuals that can commit to coming in once a week, and that he would like to have at least two more people on staff whose level of involvement is similar to his and Olmos's.

"We'd like to be open at least six days a week," Olmos says, "but it's hard to convince people to work here [without] getting paid."

One thing Kelly feels the Bike HUB never need lack is bicycles. "I'm pretty sure that Long Beach has enough derelict bikes to keep us going forever," he says.

The HUB Community Bike Center is located at 1730 Long Beach Blvd. (just south of PCH). Contact the Bike HUB at  (562) 912-7777, and find it online at http://www.HUBLB.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/TheHubLB.

1 Kelly says the Living Love Foundation is looking to facilitate just such a class.

Evan Kelly

Olmos (foreground) and Kelly volunteering their time at the Bike HUB

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