Bike Kitchen to receive wheelchair-friendly space following longstanding accessibility issue

The AMS Bike Kitchen is set to occupy a wheelchair-accessible space in the Life Building, something its members said is long overdue.

In addition to bicycles, the Bike Kitchen offers repairs for walkers and wheelchairs. Despite this, the centre has never been completely accessible for users who cannot walk. Nearly a decade ago, the shop could be found down a dozen stairs that patrons in wheelchairs could not descend.

“[For] a lot of older folks, people with mobility issues, we would have to run out, help them get their bike, get them down the stairs and also help them back up,” said Bike Kitchen Manager Alex Alvarez.

During construction of the Nest, the Bike Kitchen was slated to be given a new, more accessible venue. But that didn’t come to pass.

“As things progressed, we were told there was no room for us, so we would move into a ‘fancy building,’” said Alvarez. The Bike Kitchen’s home at a double-wide trailer sitting just south of Brock Hall functional, but could only be reached by dirt or gravel paths that become harder to cross in wetter months.

The AMS attempted to solve the issue by applying coarse gravel to drain the water — but that created problems of its own.

“Now anything with tires or wheels now sinks into the gravel, so no more pallet jacks and wheelchairs, and people with walkers and stuff have some difficulties. We would have [delivery] people just abandon their palates … and customers weren’t too stoked on the lake,” Alvarez said.

“[Accessibility] is something we’ve always wanted but never really had.”

The gravel path becomes harder to reach in the wetter months.
The gravel path becomes harder to reach in the wetter months. Alex Nguyen

But a plan for a permanent shop location in the basement of the Life building might be the solution. The new location includes a smooth bike slope in the centre of the stairs and wheelchair accessibility via pre-existing ramps on the north end of the building, as well as elevators. The new space also sits opposite a wheelchair-dedicated washroom, with open double doors and a wide shop path.

“[There] will be no question about accessibility to the lower level whatsoever,” said AMS Designer Michael Kingsmill. Building codes require the AMS to provide one means of access and egress, but he emphasized that, “You can always do more.”

The move is not yet complete, but Alvarez was optimistic that the new location would end the Bike Kitchen’s years-long fight for accessibility.

“The metal fabricators are en route, and the wheel is in motion,” said Alvarez.