DETROIT—Jason Hall knows first hand the frustration of getting a flat bicycle tire in Detroit.
Last summer, one of his bike wheels sprung a leak during a ride at Belle Isle, the city’s island park. He didn’t have a patch kit and couldn’t convince a cab to let him bring his bike aboard, so he ended up having to walk several miles back to his home in Corktown. Now Hall is doing everything he can to ensure others don’t have to go through this experience.
As a co-founder of the group Detroit Bike City, which sponsors an annual bike expo and a popular local bike ride called Slow Roll, he’s backing an initiative to get stranded cyclists the tools they need.
The Air Pump Project, which is also being supported by the Downtown Detroit Bike Shop, is dedicated to creating a network of Detroit businesses that will carry bicycle repair kits and provide them free-of-charge to those in need.
The basic package includes a couple inner tubes, an air valve adaptor, a patch kit, a couple of minor tools and an air pump. Advanced packages will later include bike stands and other tools.
The kits will kept indoors -- and with good reason. The Bronx Bar, located in Detroit’s Cass Corridor neighborhood, used to have an air hose hooked up to their building for bicyclists, but Hall tells Mode Shift it was destroyed in an act of vandalism. He wants the project to avoid problems like this and theft.
“You’ll be required to leave your I.D. [inside],” he says. ”We’re trying to make it as safe for the bar owners as can be to keep the equipment safe.”
Although Detroit Bike City is working on a Kickstarter page to help raise funds for the project, participating businesses are currently footing the bill for the kits.
Right now, the program is offered at PJ’s Lager House in Corktown, Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub downtown and Urban Pheasant Glass at the Russell Industrial Center. Hall hopes in addition to enhancing Detroit’s bike safety infrastructure, the project will also increase foot traffic at local establishments and connect the area’s cycling community.
“If you go to PJ’s to use the pump, you might stop to have a drink. You might meet somebody there. You might run into somebody,” he says. “If I get a flat tire and I’m frustrated, I guarantee you I’m going to have a shot to calm down.”
There has been a lot of interest in the program, Hall says, because of his group’s weekly Slow Roll ride, which visits different bars and eating venues around the city. In addition to the kits, he’s also using the program as an opportunity to talk with these different establishments about installing infrastructure like custom bike racks.
His goal is to have at least 15 businesses signed up for the Air Pump Project by the end of the summer. A mobile phone app and stickers are now in the works to help identify participating venues.
The project’s organizers have been approached about expanding the program to the suburbs. However, although they welcome similar programs in other communities, they’re determined to keep their focus on Detroit.
Their aim is to fill in the gaps between existing bike service institutions in the city, so no cyclist would have to walk more than three-quarters of a mile to reach a repair kit. Ultimately, there is no upper limit to how many establishments could be involved.
“If every restaurant and bar in this city started calling me and asking if they could get a package, I would definitely include them,” Hall says. “There’s no number. There’s no number, because if everybody buys in it only makes it better.”
If you know of a Detroit business that’s interested in this project or would like to donate money, contact email@example.com.