OC’s Store-Front Bicycle Co-op Reopens in Santa Ana

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This coming Saturday, The Bicycle Tree will re-open to the public at its new address, 702 West 17th Street in Santa Ana. Typical of The Bicycle Tree’s understated style, the re-opening will not be marked by a party, but by a return to the business of fixing and selling bicycles during its normal business hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The storefront co-op closed its location on Main Street in March to move to a larger space to better meet its growing constituency.

“Things were getting really tight in our location on Main Street,” explained Paul Nagel, the executive director of The Bicycle Tree. “There were so many bikes in storage, we were running out of room to do much of anything… especially work on your bike.”

While The Bicycle Tree may have a new home, for the 200-plus people who come through the doors every week to fix their bicycles, learn more about bicycle maintenance, or volunteer to help others, the 17th Street location will feel familiar. Bicycle stands will still be set up and ready. Space to work will still rent at $7 per hour.  The new store will maintain the same hours as the Main Street location. And The Bicycle Tree hopes to quickly resume other programs and activities – rides, bike repair classes, Wrench and Ride, and bike repair with the probation department and supervised youth – throughout the summer.

“We’re not planning on changing the way we do things, just because we’re in a bigger space,” Nagel explained.

The Bicycle Tree was a victim of it's own success...too many bikes meant not enough space for work (left) the new space (right) is much larger as seen in this picture of the lease signing. Images : Heather Young, Bicycle Tree
The Bicycle Tree was a victim of its own success: Too many bikes meant not enough space to work in (left). The new space (right) is much larger, as seen in this picture of the lease signing. Images : Heather Young, The Bicycle Tree Blog

The Bicycle Tree was founded the same way many bicycle co-ops are: in someone’s garage. The Bicycle Tree was started in 2006 at a house in Anaheim that served as its base of operations for nearly three years. For the next five years after that, volunteers held workshops and “pop-up” events throughout Orange County.

In 2014, The Bicycle Tree moved into its first store-front location, at 811 Main Street in Santa Ana. It quickly ran out of room, and after making do for several years the organization found a new home. The Main Street location closed in March, and over the past few months the nomadic early tradition of The Bicycle Tree was revived. Volunteers continued to do outreach and educate people about safe cycling and proper bike maintenance. They held events including free bike repair at a bike rodeo at the Illumination Foundation’s Children’s Resource Center, and helped Santa Ana Active Streets Coalition distribute free bike helmets and lights.

Nagel explains that he was inspired to start The Bicycle Tree by the Bike Kitchen, and the other store-front co-ops throught Los Angeles in Northeast Los Angeles, mid-town Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and the Westside. He vividly remembers his first experience at the Bicycle Kitchen, which inspired his mission to create and grow the Bicycle Tree. At the Bicycle Kitchen, he worked with a “cook” named Somerset Waters, who coincidentally helped me assemble my bicycle when I arrived in Los Angeles and was just starting to plan the launch of Streetsblog Los Angeles. Waters and the original three L.A. co-ops are featured in this Streetfilm from 2008.

One of those Los Angeles co-ops, the Westside’s Bikerowave, donated money to The Bicycle Tree to help with the move, as did the OC Wheelmen. While those donations are helpful, and very much appreciated, The Bicycle Tree is a nonprofit that relies on individual and small donor support to maintain and expand its programming. All donations are tax-deductible and can be made here.

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