One man wants to turn Gainesville into a bicycling hub.
Ryan Aulton, 33, is the executive director of the Freewheel Project, a nonprofit, low-cost community bike shop that aims to empower the culture of cycling through education, accessibility and infrastructure, he said.
On Sunday starting at 5 p.m., the project will hold its open house. The races, the first of what Aulton hopes to be a weekly endeavor, will feature a $5 entry fee, with all proceeds going toward the winner.
“I want to encourage all kinds of cycling,” Aulton said. “If you’re on a bike, we want to support you.”
The shop, located at 618 S. Main St., will employ a full-time mechanic and offer a collective membership, which will give members access to tools, a bicycle library and a dedicated shared workspace and event space, he said.
If a person wants to check out a cargo bike to run errands, the membership will give members access to one. It works much the same as a library, he said.
The membership will cost $50 and 10 volunteer hours a year, he said. Members will also have access to bike storage, lockers and a shower.
The 12,000-square-foot building is located in downtown Gainesville.
The Freewheel Project will only utilize about 3,500 square feet of the building, he said. He plans to sublease the two large units that share a 2,000-square-foot common area and two smaller stand-alone offices to make the project completely self-sustainable, he said.
“I think it is something that is beneficial to the city,” said Michael Mcaleer, 32, a UF sophomore graphic design student, an avid cyclist and a sales associate and mechanic at Bikes and More.
Mcaleer said Gainesville has a great cycling community and anything that helps people enjoy or learn about cycling is helpful.
He said that a program like the Freewheel Project will not only benefit people who are passionate about bicycle riding but also those who ride a bike because it is the only means of transportation they can afford.
They constantly see customers who cannot afford to have their bicycle working properly, he said. A program like this one would be a good tool for those people and a great way to encourage safe bicycling in Gainesville, Mcaleer said.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 5/14/15]