Alberta Bike Swap returns with family-friendly addition

· The Pulse
By Brett McKay
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A popular event that gives cyclists a chance to buy and sell bikes without the hassles of online marketplaces is returning to Edmonton, this time with plans to include children's bikes, too.

Alberta Bike Swap will be at the MacEwan University's 107 Street parkade on May 14 from 8am to 2pm for consignors, 2:30pm to 4pm for buyers, and throughout the day for donors. The swap is accepting children's bikes on consignment for the first time this year.

"We have a huge need for people and children to become active," co-founder Laura Grant told Taproot. "We've been asked for years about whether we would put children's bikes on or not. This year, we thought, 'You know what? Let's help more families.'"

Proceeds from sales and the $2 admission fee go to community organizations to promote safe and healthy cycling, including CAN-BIKE, Ever Active Schools, and Bike Edmonton.

"We've always donated about five times what we take in back to the community to fund other cycling-related non-profits," Grant said. "In 2019, in our last event we put on, we donated almost $29,000 in bikes and in-kind back to the community."

COVID restrictions put the bike swap on hold for two years, at a time when demand for bikes was surging. High demand and supply chain slowdowns led to a global bike shortage that is expected to continue, causing delays for bike shops and sending more people looking online for a quality used model.

Two sketchy experiences with online marketplaces in Calgary led Grant and her husband, Chris, to start the swap. In one case, the would-be buyer showed little interest in Chris's rebuilt bike and returned later to rob their garage. In the other, Laura went with a friend to look at a full carbon road bike and found it being sold from an unfurnished basement suite for a fraction of what it was worth. (No, she didn't buy it.)

"We need to create a safe space to buy and sell bikes," Grant remembers telling her husband. "And use that money to fund safe cycling in the province."

A large crowd inspects bikes in an underground parkade.

Laura Grant co-founded Alberta Bike Swap to create a safe space to buy and sell bikes. Now thousands of people turn up for their events. (Supplied)

They put on their first event in Calgary on April 1, 2011. Despite a snowstorm and road closures, people drove in from as far away as Grande Prairie and Lethbridge to buy bikes. "Everything sold in 20 minutes," Grant said.

The swap has run annually in Calgary since then, except in the pandemic years. It expanded to Edmonton in 2015 and is now in Lethbridge, too.

In the process of growing the non-profit, Chris, an engineer, and Laura, a computer scientist, have also developed and patented a new bike rack design, as well as software that tracks consignments and purchases while logging the make, model, serial number, and colour of the bikes.

"It's the only software really in the entire world that does what we wanted it to do. It's fit for purpose," Grant said. "We also designed and patented the bike rack. The whole thing is an innovation."

They are currently working with Bike Index to include bike registration in future iterations of the software.

It's shaping up to be a cycling-friendly Saturday, with Edmonton Family Cyclists hosting the Edmonton Family Bike Meetup on May 14 at the City Arts Centre from 11am to 1pm. Snacks and beverages will be provided by Ward papastew councillor Michael Janz and Ward O-day'min councillor Anne Stevenson.