Lisa Cliff moved to the Tri-Cities from “a very green city” in Australia.
It was bicycle-friendly, the kind of place where people often commuted on two wheels.
So in her new home, Cliff was eager to keep riding. But she didn’t always feel safe “because a lot of the motorways don’t accommodate bicycles,” she said.
Then she found Wheelhouse Community Bike Shop, a member-owned nonprofit that aims to build “a better community through bicycles.”
It’s given her a place to go for safe bike routes, to meet other cyclists, access affordable parts and learn about repairs.
“Having an organization like Wheelhouse in the community helps people to reduce their impact (on the environment), makes biking a lot more convenient and helps you feel more confident on a bike,” Cliff told the Herald. “That’s a really valuable thing.”
Having an organization like Wheelhouse in the community helps people to reduce their impact (on the environment), makes biking a lot more convenient and helps you feel more confident on a bike.
Lisa Cliff, local bicyclist
Wheelhouse got its start as the for-profit Liberation Bike Shop, which started in 2015 with rentals out of Columbia Point. It marked the transition to a nonprofit community bike shop with a move a few months ago from its old downtown Kennewick location to a new space a few blocks away.
It’s now at 218 W. Kennewick Ave.
Wheelhouse also recently opened a second location at 710 George Washington Way, Suite D, near Howard Amon Park in Richland.
Wheelhouse works to build a strong bicycling community through education, outreach, events and partnerships with businesses and community groups. It aims to be a hub of information and a place for people to hang out, work on their bikes, attend classes, meet up for group rides and the like.
Its membership roll is growing, with about 60 members so far, said founder David Spaulding.
And it’s working on some exciting initiatives, he said, from rolling out a local Bike Index program to combat bike theft, to bringing in the national Bicycle Benefits program that helps both cyclists and businesses.
Other upcoming events and initiatives range from an organized ride later this year to raise awareness of climate change to a continued partnership with the nearby Amistad Elementary in Kennewick to get students on bikes.
Spaulding is pleased with Wheelhouse’s success so far and hopeful about its future, he said.
It’s coming into its busy season, when people are looking to get out more on two wheels.
And it plays an important role in the community.
“A community bike shop is like a bicycle itself — it’s a really simple answer to some complex issues a growing community faces,” Spaulding said.
It makes bikes and cycling more accessible, and those things improve a community’s health, ease traffic congestion and more, he said.
“It connects one type of transportation with a lot of benefits to the community,” Spaulding said. “Education really helps the community realize the benefits that walking, bike, mass transit and automobiles share.”
Wheelhouse membership starts at $40 a year. To learn about the benefits of membership, stay up-to-date on activities or for more information, go to wheelhouse.bike or find the shop on Facebook at facebook.com/wheelhousebikeshop.