What a fantastic year!
Before we review the incredible successes of 2022, all of us at CTBC want to thank all of our incredible supporters for Saving Our Shop! From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!
2022 feels like a stand-out year in the 7 year history of the Cola Town Bike Collective. We started the year off with securing an entire shipping container of bikes for our Reliable Transportation Initiative. We distribute bikes to clients who need reliable transportation. These bikes helped us grow our network of partner NGOs to over 20 and also began a relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The possibility for reliable transportation has never been more attainable for a huge range of people throughout Columbia and the surrounding area.
711 Elmwood Ave has become a fantastic community location in 2022 with weekly rides, events, shows, festivals, and host space for makers. Our board works directly with Dialed Bicycles & Repair, Street Meat Cola, and Cola Women Cyclists to have regular rides, camping trips, and out-of-town trips, all using our space as the launching pad. In addition to rides, 711 Elmwood hosted over 15 bands, a few dozen local artists, and hundreds of people looking for an alternative venue. CTBC has a unique fit between a traditional music venue and a “house show”. These events allow musicians and artists a much larger venue that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
We are taking the momentum from 2022 and running with it with new programming, plans, and growth planned for 2023!
The Reliable Transportation Initiative
In 2022 we continued our most important mission – to provide low cost/no cost bikes and repairs for people in our community who rely on two wheels as their only form of transportation. These bikes are used to get to work, doctors appointments, to pick up groceries, and many other essential tasks. These bikes act as a liferaft for our clients.
Through a partnership with Second Chance Bikes in Charleston, we were able to secure roughly 240 brand new commuter bikes to give to people in need. These are the black CTBC bikes you see around town. With the extra bikes, we were able to add more organizations to our network of partners. This year we began exciting partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Killingsworth Home For Women, Richland County Public Library, and Columbia Housing.
As part of our Reliable Transportation Initiative, CTBC partnered with the Leadership Columbia Class of 2022 to secure 15 bike donations, three new bike racks, along with several helmets and locks for Transitions clients. Our partnership with Leadership Columbia helped us roll out our new branded bikes. MidlandsBiz graciously donated ad space in their daily e-newsletter, helping us spread the word about this Reliable Initiative Transportation and continued soliciting donations for Transitions effort all year long.
In mid 2022, we also spent thousands on repairs and upgrades to the yellow bike repair stands in Columbia and West Columbia as part of the RTI, upgrading the pump heads from the plastic ones to an alloy head that is designed to take more constant use.
The Reliable Transportation Initiative provided 223 free adult bikes, and 67 kids bikes in 2022. During that same time, over 350 free repair appointments were provided to help keep those bikes running.
Some of our charitable partners who we have worked with this year include:
Additionally, we work directly with individuals who fall outside of traditional channels of help.
In the Summer of 2022, we were informed by the landlord of our shop at 711 Elmwood that the building was going to be sold in the coming months.
The risk of losing our location that we’ve called our home for almost half a decade put our entire mission at risk. Over 90% of our clients are referred from services within 1.5 miles of our location. Relocating farther away would make us less impactful and accessible to those without access to transportation.
We launched our “Cola Town Bike Collective #SaveOurShop” fundraiser in August to purchase 711 Elmwood and get necessary repairs done to secure the building and provide a safe and structurally secure building for our clients and staff.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of hundreds of individual donors, we raised over $70,000 by the end of the year. Funds have been used to purchase the building and begin essential repairs, including a new roof which will be completed by February 2023. Our fundraiser remains ongoing, and our next targets will be other repairs needed such as our electrical system, plumbing, and upgrading our fence.
2022 saw more shows and events at the bike shop. We had a return visit from Tommy Stinson (Replacements/ Guns N Roses), as well as hosting the first Grunge Prom event at our shop, which included bands, artists, and vendors. We had the kick-off show for Dear Blanca and The Sloppy Boys on their East Coast Tour. We ended the year hosting Flippants with guest Tongues of Fire and 143. All told, we had 15 different bands perform at 711 Elmwood, with dozens of different artists, vendors, and over 550 people in attendance.
This year we really ramped up group rides and overnight camping trips. Street Meat and Cola Women Cyclists now host regular casual rides leaving from the co-op on a weekly basis. Once a month, the Street Meat ride has a hot dog social after the ride which is a great way to meet new folks. There are more advanced rides with a lot of the same folks, so it’s a great way to grow your abilities.
Throughout the year, CTBC and Dialed Bicycles & Repair teamed up to put together beginner-to-advanced overnight bikepacking trips. Some of these trips took advantage of the Palmetto Trail just outside of Columbia, but also included an advanced trip in Oconee County. We already have more trips planned for 2023. The best way to find out more about these rides is to join the regular Tuesday night Street Meat ride at 711 Elmwood.
By the Numbers
Meet the Executive Director
Scott Nuelken, a founding member of the Cola Town Bike Collective, started what grew into the current organization in his garage in 2014.
Recognizing that there was strong need in the community to support people who use bicycles as a means of transportation, an important distinction from people who simply want to ride bicycles for exercise or athletic reasons, prompted him to start the first iteration of the CTBC
in his garage in Rosewood. Inspired by the direct impact that Scott was having in his community, he quickly was able to enlist the help of volunteers, friends, and the broader community to help him to grow from a garage shop to our current location at almost 3,000 square feet.
In the past eight years, Nuelken has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to the organization. He is the primary mechanic at the shop, but can also be seen in a suit meeting with City and County Council members discussing bike safety and bike infrastructure needs in the region. As a stopgap for safer roads in the region, Nuelken worked with other board members to create a webapp called Sprocket that draws on shared knowledge to help riders safely navigate Columbia’s roads.
Scott can be reached at (803) 917-6023
From the President
Once again you, the community, have shown your incredible support for the Cola Town Bike Collective and we are truly humbled and grateful. As we continued with our Reliable Transportation Initiative in 2022 we wanted to also open our doors as a community space once again. From huge volunteer days cleaning up inventory and assembling donated bikes, to supporting the local arts scene by providing a space for shows and concerts. Our executive director, Scott Neulken, has also been able to operate the shop five days a week. This has been one of our most active years ever. But 2022 also brought our biggest challenge.
Every year CTBC participates in Central Carolina Community Foundation’s Midlands Gives, a one-day fund-raising event allowing givers at all levels to support their favorite charities. The funds raised through Midlands Gives goes a long way to covering our operating costs and we were incredibly thankful for the show of support and the money raised during that event. Unexpectedly, though, our building was put up for and its sale posed an existential threat to our existence. There was no way we could put an offer on the building with the budget and funds we had. So we launched our “Save Our Shop” campaign in the hopes of raising enough money to put a down payment to buy the building and raise additional funds for some much needed repairs. While we were always hopeful we would raise enough in time we were absolutely blown away by the outpouring of support we quickly received. With the help of the community we purchased our building, ensuring our survival and the continuation of our Reliable Transportation Initiative.
2023 promises to be another year of returning the favor by giving back to the community that has shown us so much support. We have a new roof coming and many improvements to the shop that will allow us to be an even more inclusive safe space for our clients and our community. As always, with immense gratitude, thank you.
Best wishes and safe riding!