August 31, 2014

by Mitch Marrison, PeopleForBikes retail program coordinator

As any rider knows, bike shops are the hub of the bicycling community. They are the hub of the PeopleForBikes community, too. We have more than 1,000 retailer members spreading the word about PeopleForBikes, bringing new riders into the movement and collecting donations to help fund our Community Grants program.

Each month we showcase one of our retailer members who is going above and beyond to help improve bicycling in their own communities. In June, we spoke with Pete Kostes of Athens Bicycle in Athens, OH about how their shop is making biking better in their local community. This month, we spoke to Martha Emmons at BikeWorld in Paducah, KY. She gave us the rundown on how they’re making biking better for their customers, community and for future generations.

PFB: Tell us about the history of BikeWorld

Martha Emmons: We were young professionals who wanted to own a business. We loved riding our bikes and Paducah didn’t have a bike shop. Opportunity plus ignorance and BikeWorld was born. There was no limit to the scope of what we didn’t know. We stumbled into registering for the League of American Bicyclists retailer dealer’s program and started down the path of educating ourselves and our customers about the advantages of a having bicycle friendly community.

Martha (right) and her husband, Hutch Smith.

What does the shop look like today?

The people at BikeWorld define the shop. While the staff ranges throughout the year, a love of riding bikes is something we all have in common. Our shop has a half wall separating it from the merchandising area. It’s easy for anyone who comes into the store to interact with the technicians.

What are some unique ways that BikeWorld has reached out to new PeopleForBikes supporters?

“PeopleForBikes” is printed on our shop jerseys. It definitely draws some attention!

How do you keep your employees and customers excited about PeopleForBikes?

We see this is a way of letting the powers that be in Washington, DC know people want safe places to ride. None of our employees are against that!

Gearing up for a group ride.

In what ways is BikeWorld involved with your local community?

Our business and our advocacy is seamless. We represent the face of bicycling to our city, providing information and education to our city planner, city manager, parks director, local media, educational partners and law enforcement.

We are always involved in at least one advocacy project, usually several at once. We started our city’s Police Bike Unit many years ago by donating a police bike to the department. We’ve donated bicycle parking racks to several high profile locations and sold others to schools and businesses. About eight years ago we partnered with city government to start “Bikes On Broadway.” Now, Broadway is closed to car traffic every second Sunday afternoon for six months of the year.  

The final leg section of our city’s greenway trail is set to open this fall. We began working with our city council to plan and design this around the north side of the city 15 years ago and have shepherded it every step of the way. Also, we partner with the area’s biggest hospital to annually produce “Spokes for Strokes,” which is both a ride and a fundraiser. This summer we raised $11,500 for a cooperative mission’s food bank and homeless shelter with the area’s first Moonlight Ride. On top of all this, we help organizations with free used bikes when they have a pressing need and sponsor a “Read to Ride” program for each local elementary schoool through the local civic club.

Do you have any big plans for your store in 2014?  

We are actively involved with our city planner in developing a bicycle transportation plan for the city. So far in 2014, we have had presentations by Steve Clark from the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Communities Program and Jeff Speck, the author of “Walkable Cities.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

One of our most exciting events of late is our Bike Leadership Camp for 13- to 15-year-old teens. Unless you know your community, you can’t appreciate it and what better way to explore a place than by bicycle? The young people who attended Bike Leadership Camp explored historic neighborhoods, justice buildings, community gardens, alleys, museums, cinemas, parks, graveyards and the swimming pool, bought food at the farmers market and grilled it themselves, and rode more than 100 miles during their five-day adventure. Every participant came in as a bike rider but was an enthusiast by the end of the camp.


Bike Leadership Camp attendees picking out their bikes.

A big thanks again to the crew over at BikeWorld! You can find the PeopleForBikes Retailers near you over at our Get Local map. If your local bike shop isn’t a member but should be, you can encourage them to sign up here.

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