Volunteer bike shop offers free and low-cost rides in Turtle Creek

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Red Lantern Bike Shop Executive Director Brian Sink poses for a portrait inside the Turtle Creek shop on Saturday, July 16, 2022.

The sanctuary of the disused Calvary Church in Turtle Creek is full of bikes. They lean all over the place against the benches and are piled up in any open space.

“We actually still have a shipping container in Braddock full of bikes,” said Brian Sink of Red Lantern Bicycles. Pittsburgh City Paper.

Why do they need so many bikes? Because they give them away for free.

Red Lantern Bicycles is a volunteer-run organization, started by Brian and his wife Maria, that distributes free refurbished children’s bikes (and new helmets), sells adult bikes at low prices and offers repairs for a small fee. .

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“We often give a big donation, like, we’ll release 60 kids’ bikes at a time or maybe even more,” Sink says, and then they invite parents to bring their kids to Red Lantern to pick up a bike. They also receive donations of bicycles for teens and adults, which they refurbish and resell at low prices. According to their website, adult bikes start at $35. They also repair bicycles, for which they charge a small fee. “It’s very, very cheap,” Sink says, “but we never turn anyone away, so it’s never a big deal.”

Around 2013, Sink began bringing bikes to kids who needed them by taking bikes out of the trash in Braddock, where he was living at the time, and donating them to Free Ride Pittsburgh, a bike repair collective in Point Breeze. With the help of Braddock Redux, Lieutenant Governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman’s nonprofit organization, Red Lantern acquired a shipping container in which to store and repair bicycles and began operating in Braddock.

After several years in Braddock, Red Lantern moved to its current Turtle Creek home in 2021. The building once housed the United Calvary Church of Christ. Brian and Maria have paid the money for a down payment on the church and hope to fund the rest of the purchase through their GoFundMe.

“About half a dozen of us, or so, keep this place afloat,” Sink says. “Everything is voluntary. Sounds cool until you realize we all have jobs. Brian manages Riverfront Park in Aspinwall and Maria works for the Allegheny County Health Department.

A thrift store that’s been around since the 1970s, and where no item costs more than $2, has come with the church, Sink says. Although the church congregation dwindled to the point that it no longer made sense to operate the building, they made plans with the sinks to keep the thrift store running after the church changed of hands. The bike shop and thrift store aren’t open the same hours and they don’t share volunteers, but Brian says he’ll sell you a shirt if you really want it.

Click to enlarge Brian Sink, Executive Director of Red Lantern Bike Shop

Brian Sink, Executive Director of Red Lantern Bike Shop

(Hint: Sink shares that, since the store’s clientele tends to be older, “You’ll walk in and there’ll be like 10 pairs of, like, Vans and Chucks and stuff that in regular thrift stores will instantly disappear.”)

Kelley Kelleywhose second term as mayor of Turtle Creek ended in 2021, is thrilled with Red Lantern’s decision to move to the borough, located about 20 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

“I was so excited because we don’t have anything like that in Turtle Creek,” she said. city ​​paper. “What they do is just wonderful. I mean, how can you not love an organization that gives free bikes to kids?”

Kelley says she met Maria through a Turtle Creek Park rehabilitation project that Maria was working on in her role at the health department. “Maria and I hit it off from the start and became friends. She told me about what she and her husband were doing in Braddock with the Red Lantern bike shop, which I thought was amazing. Of course , we had old bikes and we donated them and we did that kind of stuff, so our friendship kind of grew from there.

Kelley and her husband often lend Brian and Maria their van to move the bikes around, she says. When they lived in Braddock, Sink says they borrowed Fetterman’s truck.

“We went from the Braddock mayor’s truck to the Turtle Creek mayor’s truck,” Sink jokes.

“They’ve been a great partner, and for Turtle Creek as well,” Kelley says of the Sinks.

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But a challenge associated with Red Lantern’s new location is that Turtle Creek, like much of Mon Valley, is very car-oriented, making the streets inhospitable and potentially dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.

The community is working to improve walking and biking, Kelley says, although it’s a long-term effort. “There is a lot of work around the creation of a cycle path in the region,” she adds.

Sink agrees the area could use a bike lane. Until then, however, he suggests using a combination of a bike and a Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus.

“You can take a bus [from] here with a bike, right outside the door here, and you can end up in Oakland and then you can ride from there or go downtown and you can go somewhere else.

“You get people on bikes, that’s a good thing,” he says.

Red Lantern Bikes. 125 Shaw Ave., Turtle Creek. redlanternbikes.org