If you’ve thought lately about buying, selling or fixing a bicycle, you’re in luck. The City of Tacoma has dedicated the entire month of May to cycling, and the fun actually kicks off a few days early, on Saturday, April 29, with the ninth-annual Bike Swap at the University of Puget Sound. Vendors, mechanics, experts and enthusiasts alike will gather from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Thompson Hall parking lot, between Union and North 14th Street, to exchange ideas and, of course, bicycles and anything bike-related.
“We will be there rain or shine, though we always hope for shine,” says Meredith Soniat, an active transportation coordinator with the City of Tacoma’s Public Works Department. “As this event becomes a staple in the South Sound bicycling community, we expect to have a combination of both new and repeat participants, likely reaching around a thousand attendees again this year. The number of vendors continues to grow annually as well, with nearly 30 vendors and community partners registered for this year’s swap.”
At the heart of the event is the “bike corral” where citizens can buy, sell or trade bicycles, parts and accessories. Mechanics will be on hand to offer minor repairs, and users can even practice putting their bicycles on Pierce Transit bus bike racks. Kids will get a chance to explore their fledgling riding skills in the “bike rodeo,” and a food truck will be serving tasty meals to those who work up an appetite.
“If participants have one to two bikes or bike parts to sell,” Soniat explains, “they can do so at the bike corral, a dedicated area for individual-to-individual transactions. Individual sellers can register bikes and bike accessories and lock the items up while they are at the event. Anyone interested in an item calls the cell phone number listed on the bike corral tag, and the sellers and buyers work out a place and time to meet up for test rides and to negotiate pricing and payment details. Sellers must fill out a waiver form upon registering items.”
The Bike Swap in particular and Bike Month in general play a significant role in putting the city’s philosophy into action. Indeed, perhaps more than any other activity, biking has the potential to address multiple community problems.
The City of Tacoma’s Transportation Master Plan, which was released in December of 2015, notes the following: “With growing public health concerns about obesity and air quality, increasing bicycle activity is one of the most cost effective ways to reduce health costs, preserve infrastructure, and improve air quality.”
In other words, it’s not just your health that benefits from cycling; the streets, the air and even your wallet receive a much-needed boost as well.
“With the goal of increasing the number of people who bike everywhere—to work, school, dinner, etc.—we look at the Swap as an opportunity to introduce a new group of people to bicycling as a mode of transportation, not simply recreation,” Soniat says. “At the swap, we will have a Map Masters booth where attendees can get their own copy of the Pierce County Bike Map, and volunteers from the bike community serve as resources to provide recommended routes based on the attendees’ desired destinations.”
For my part, I’ve got two bicycles collecting dust in the garage. One needs a new rear derailleur. The other needs a new inner tube. I don’t need two bikes, just one that works. I’ll be taking at least one of them to the Bike Swap, where I hope to transform said dust collector into a well-oiled machine—or unite it with someone who can put it to good use.
Matt Kite is an avid hiker and masters runner in Tacoma. Check out “3 Minute Hikes,” his hiking channel on YouTube.