The MH Cycle Co-Op
Tom Fougere, aka ‘Tall Bike Tommy,’ aka ‘ComTV Tom’, is a widely familiar character. I mean, he was running for mayor at one point. I don’t think he will mind me saying that he’s probably a bit of a polarizing figure, but certainly not a dull one.
If you have a Facebook account, you probably think you know Tom, but you might not know this. For the last three years, Tom has been the proprietor of Medicine Hats’ first and only Cycle Co-Op. Starting as a yearly ‘pop up,’ the MH Cycle Co-Op is now a Downtown fixture.
What’s a Cycle Co-Op?
I’m glad you asked. I had no idea either. So I headed over to the MH Cycle Co-Op on 415 3rd Street Downtown Medicine Hat to find out. I entered the slender space serving as both storefront and workshop, to find Tom engaged in conversation over the merits of helmet-mounted or handlebar-mounted wing mirrors. Tom will explain to me later that the biking community can be an obsessive one, and the conversation ended unresolved but with a plan to run tests and settle the issue.
Once I had Tom alone, he explained animatedly what a Cycle Co-Op was.
Tom explained that the Cycle Co-Op is an avenue for people to keep pedalling without throwing out potentially fixable bikes. It’s a way to exchange out-grown bikes, your time, skills, or sometimes some cash for a safe, fun, and roadworthy ride.
‘A Cycle Co-Op is a place where people can learn about bicycles. They can learn to fix their bicycles or volunteer to fix other peoples. The goal is to get as many of these (donated) bikes back out into the community.’
Going down the right path.
I asked Tom where the idea came from and why he felt Medicine Hat needed a Co-Op. He said that he’d seen bike co-op’s in other city centers and knew the positive effect they’d had there. As an avid cyclist, he was keen to use his passion to impact our community positively.
Tom was also eager to point out the benefits of young people learning to renew, rather than replace the world around them.
‘We want young people to come down here and learn how to fix things. I think that young people learn that, “you get one, it breaks, you throw it away, you get another one.” They might not even think about fixing something. So then later in life, you don’t think about repairing the draw in the kitchen. You maybe don’t think about improving your relationships, your marriage or the community around you. Everything becomes about divorce, separation, throwing away. I feel like if we can instill in young people that things are fixable. That they have the ability, confidence and tools to fix a bicycle, maybe they will try and fix other things. There’s a lot of stuff in society that’s broken.’
Fixing bikes and communities
As a non-profit, the Cycle Co-Op’s primary function is to provide bikes to those who need them. If someone enters the store in need, then the Co-Op works out a way to help. Whether it’s parts, knowledge, tools or straight up bikes, the only requirement is to engage with them, share your time and story, and become part of the cycling community.
The donation of bikes to people and organizations is essential to building trust with the more vulnerable around us. It brings them in and makes them feel noticed by Medicine Hat. When we donate our time and resources to something like this, we let people know that we see them, and we care. When people feel part of something, they protect it. The drop in bike theft and swift response to missing bikes the Cycle Co-Op has seen proves this.
The Cycle Co-Op is a non-profit and relies on donations of time, skill, parts and money to keep going. So far, the Cycle Co-Op is doing well. Local businesses have stepped up to keep the Co-Op going. Bertsch Concrete, Cycle Path, Isaac’s Barbor Shop, and others who wish to remain anonymous have contributed to the Cycle Co-Ops success.
Tom thanks them all.
If you feel like the MH Cycle Co-Op is something you’d like to support, your first step should be to head in and talk to them. They’d love that.