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Alberta Bike Swap ensures a safe way for Calgarians to buy and sell bikes

If the pandemic showed us one thing, it’s that many Calgarians have embraced the idea of cycling.

At one point, however, there was a Calgary bike shortage. Then later, a bike part shortage.

This spring, for those in the market for a set of wheels, the Alberta Bike Swap is hosting a swap event on May 8 at Sunridge Mall. 

Calgarians can attend the event and be assured the bike they’re purchasing is safe, secure and legitimate. Anyone that would like to consign or donate a bike can do so on May 7.

According to the Calgary Police Service, on average, approximately 2,900 bikes were reported stolen to the CPS each year between 2015 and 2018. There was a return rate of approximately 12 per cent of those recovered.

In May 2020 alone, officers returned more than $12,000 worth of bikes with the help of Bike Index. Bike Index utilizes a bike’s serial number to confirm the rightful owner.

Not just there for the bike?

Chris Grant from Alberta Bike Swap has the goal of ensuring safe selling and buying for all. After selling bikes with his wife Laura out of their home, Grant said he noticed people weren’t just there for the bike.

“They’re looking at the windows, they’re looking at the doors. They’re looking at the other bikes, and it was a very unsettling feeling that we’ve just been scoped out, and is somebody going to come back? That’s scary,” Grant said.

Sellers going through the bike swap won’t need to have people coming to their homes. Alberta Bike Swap will sell the bike and send the money afterward. 

“We record the serial number and it keeps stolen bikes away from our event. Hence, making it a safe place to buy a bike. You don’t have to wonder if it’s stolen or not,” he said.

Through Alberta Bike Swap, bikes are inspected closely. They go through tech checks to ensure everything is working properly and is in good condition. 

The organization relies heavily on donated bikes. Alberta Bike Swap works with a number of groups who are looking for bikes to recondition. One group provides high school students with the opportunity to learn bike mechanics. 

Part of the admission fee they collect for the event goes toward similar groups. The money helps them buy spare parts to fix up donated bikes. 

Wide array of benefits: Grant

Grant believes there are a number of benefits to having a bike.

He said one year for a bike swap event, their T-shirts read “bicycles: the tool to save the world.” He still believes in this motto.

Grant said if people started using bicycles for their short-distance errands, the amount of carbon emitted would be reduced. 

Those who already cycle had 84 per cent lower carbon emissions from all daily travel than non-cyclists, according to a study by the University of Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit.

Bikes are also crucial for those without other means of transportation. 

“While bicycles tend to be treated as a convenience and a toy, for some people they’re critical and there needs to be more effort put into that aspect of it,” Grant said.

“People who are working … can’t always afford a bus pass and definitely can’t afford a car. Having some relatively reliable mode of transportation like a bicycle will help them out an awful lot of the year.”

There are also physical and mental benefits to getting outside and riding a bike, Grant said. Bikes encourage people to get outdoors and get active. That was apparent as people searched for active outlets during the pandemic.

“[Riding a bike] is always something to feel your body and feel the legs work, and the lungs start to work. You feel it when you ride a bike, you feel better … It’s a tremendous way to clear your mind too,” he said.

Freedom of cycling

As a child, Grant said riding a bike was like having wings. He felt free. He was able to ride all around town and visit friends.

“As an adult now, I find it’s my reason to get some exercise. While I’m out there, I have gone through Nose Hill Park and come across a baby deer. The bottom line is, you just see things you wouldn’t see otherwise,” Grant said.

He also said bikes give people reasons to sign up for events. Charity rides are a great way to contribute to the community and test your limits, Grant said.

“You will work on improving yourself so that the next year you can improve your time or just ride the longer version of the course. It’s rewarding in just so many different aspects,” Grant said.