Revamping, Rethinking, Reviewing: Hub Cycle

Written by Laura Ringo on November 2nd 2016.

Last spring the PAL board of directors and staff went through a strategic planning process to think about what PAL is doing and how that is impacting our mission. We also talked about what efforts could have an impact on our mission that we are not doing, and how current work and new possible work impacts/ is impacted by our capacity and funds. These conversations can be exciting and difficult at the same time.

One program that we are rethinking after that discussion is Hub Cycle. As a reminder, Hub Cycle works like this – bicycles are donated to PAL, our bicycle mechanic does amazing magic and fixes them up, we loan out the bikes with a helmet and lock for a $15 refundable deposit (i.e. when a user brings a bicycle back, they also get their $15 back). This program is not inexpensive, costing us $134 per rental. Thankfully, it has been generously supported by United Way of the Piedmont, Mary Black Foundation, Greenville Health System, and Freewheelers of Spartanburg over the last couple of years.

Impact of the program – currently we have a little more than 200 rentals and renewals annually. Users borrow bicycles for many reasons like recreation, exercise, and transportation. The latter has become our most frequent reason with more than 80% of users at or below federal household poverty levels. This program gets many to work on a daily basis. And while transportation is not our primary purpose of the program, the concept of active living is that physical activity is part of everyday life, no matter the reason. Active transportation is one of the best ways to ensure that physical activity is part of daily life.

So with program success and significant impact on users – why reconsider it?! In stepping back and looking at the bigger picture of PAL’s role in Spartanburg, we see ourselves as drivers of community change. And we see ourselves as less of a direct service provider (jargony-term meaning: working directly with customers vs advocacy work). Part of this is how we were set up as an organization and part is because we have limited staff capacity and so want to impact the most number of people with our resources (for those of you that donate to PAL, we hope that you love this). In fact, PAL is trying to ensure that our direct service programs offered to the community are either volunteer driven or are reconsidered.

And so where do we go from here? We are having many conversations on the future of the Hub Cycle program. Is there another group that can run it more efficiently? Is there a group who can grow and expand this program? Is there an institutional partner in the transportation realm that wants to consider this? If PAL steps out, then who steps in?

Do you have suggestions or a vision for this effort? Please share it with us. We appreciate wise guidance and creative ideas!

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