Last week I sat down with Tom Knipe, interim director of the Community Cycling Center (CCC). For the uninitiated, the CCC is known for their great programs, parts recycling, used bike shop, and their Holiday Bike Drive which donates bikes to kids.
When I got there, programs manager Gabe Graff gave me the full tour. I’d never seen the CCC’s basement and it was quite a sight to behold. Bikes and parts were stacked everywhere…and impressively clean and orderly too. They really need more storage space so get in touch with them if you’ve got some laying around.
After the basement tour, Tom and I went for coffee and talked about all sorts of stuff. I asked Tom what makes the CCC different from other bike groups in town and he really drove home the fact that the CCC isn’t just about bikes but that they’re “first and foremost a social services agency”. They believe bikes are a perfect tool to reach out to low-income families and kids (Tom is especially excited about their Bike Safety Clubs and Get Linked program).
I’ve long been confused about how the CCC’s approach is different from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). They both do kids bike safety programs and it seemed to make more sense to just partner up and avoid going after the same grant money. But Tom explained that the differences are important. First, the CCC is focused on their immediate neighborhoods (the BTA is statewide) and CCC programs tend to me more comprehensive, engaging each participant on a deeper level and trying to change their life (as opposed to just teaching them the curriculum).
In addition to running programs, the CCC also has a fully staffed retail bike shop. I’ve heard many grumblings on the street about a high turnover rate with mechanics. I asked Tom about this and he said it’s tough to keep non-profit wages competitive and admitted he’d like to offer higher pay. He also explained that most of the CCC’s money comes from grants which are earmarked for specific programs so mechanic’s wages would have to come from individual donations, which is an area Tom is hoping to improve on in the coming year. That is, if he is chosen as their next Executive Director.
Yes, the CCC is on the lookout for a new leader. Tom is definitely hoping for the job and with his 3 years of experience at the CCC he’s a front runner for sure.
Their previous leader, Daniel Bohn did some great work but he was also somewhat controversial with a dubious background that was highlighted in this Oregonian article last year. Tom is aware that leadership personality issues were hurting the organization and he’s eager to move beyond them and make the CCC a great place to work and visit.
With an expanding operation in Vancouver, a growing Bike Safety Club program and some big grants coming down the pipeline, I hope Tom (or whoever the Board hires) can continue the CCC’s great work and put the “community” back in Community Cycling Center.
Check out the photo gallery from my CCC visit.