dandyhorse has been writing about Urbane since our very first issue.
Want to know more about Urbane Cyclist? Read some great stuff from the dandyARCHIVE:
Here’s a nice profile about current Urbane Cyclists co-op member Reba Plummer who is also the smart cyclist behind the Push the Envelope messenger bag line.
And, here’s a story about the life of Eugene Yao – one of the founding members of the Urbane co-operative, from issue one:
The measure of a man
Story by Laurel Atkinson, Photo courtesy of Laurel Atkinson
When Eugene Yao, a Shanghai-born immigrant to Toronto’s Chinatown, lost his job in 1994 he decided to do something entirely different – something that would combine his environmental and community activism with his love of bicycles. The result was the Urbane Cyclist.
Yao died on February 12, 2008, at the age of 61. He was a visionary cycling activist who co-founded “Urbane” after attending the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado over a decade ago.
Yao was motivated by the realization that most bikes sold in North America are of the weekend, or recreational, type. Convinced that the “big boys” in the cycling industry weren’t interested in designing bikes for the smaller slice of the market – utilitarian bikes used for getting from point A to point B – Yao wanted the shop to focus on these types of bikes.
“He was really committed to bikes for people – just regular people. Simple bikes with racks and fenders for daily commuters to encourage them to bike more,” says Nancy Kendrew, co-founder and worker/owner at the Urbane Cyclist since March 29, 1997, when it opened.
Yao was also committed to social justice in the workplace. Not only did he want to ensure the staff had decent pay, he also strove to provide year-round employment – an extreme rarity in the bike sales and repair world. “He was really adamant about democracy in the workplace,” says Kendrew.
Yao didn’t believe in resumes, once saying: “Skills can be learned but attitudes cannot.”
The philosophy of creating the best commuter bike for the best value still prevails at Urbane Cyclist. Most bikes are assembled on the premises to meet the standards and conditions Yao promoted – real bikes for everyday needs.
As I was leaving the shop, I overheard Kendrew chatting with another worker about Lance Armstrong’s current business move into the commuter cycle market. Laughing, Kendrew called out, “Eugene was ahead of Lance. Let that be your measure of all things!”
Urbane is celebrating their 15th anniversary with this special event for Cycle Toronto (formerly Toronto Cyclists Union) MEMBERS ONLY event on Thursday June 7 from 7 – 9 p.m.