The Iowa City Bike Library gets a reprieve

Iowa City Bike Library — photo by Zak Neumann,

The Iowa City Bike Library has gotten a temporary reprieve. In September, it was announced the Bike Library’s lease on its current location at 700 S Dubuque St wasn’t being renewed. Since the lease expired in February, it meant that next month the nonprofit would be moving for the third time in three years.

But that deadline has been moved, and the Bike Library will be able to stay in its current location until end of May, according to its Executive Director Cody Gieselman.

When Gieselman talked to Little Village in September about the original deadline for the Bike Library to vacate its space, she said there was real concern about whether the Iowa City institution could find a new home or even survive in its current form.

That’s changed.

“We’re definitely feeling optimistic that we’ll find something that’s going to work,” Gieselman said in a phone interview on Thursday.

The Bike Library repairs and refurbishes donated bikes which the public can check out of the library. People checking out a bike must leave a deposit — from $75 to $300, depending on the bike — and can keep the bike for six months. At the end of the six months, the bike can be returned and the deposit will be refunded, minus a $50 sustainability fee that covers wear and tear on the bike. Or the person can keep the bike, and the library keeps the deposit.

The work at the Bike Library is almost entirely done by volunteers (Gieselman, who started as a volunteer, is the only paid employee), so the nonprofit’s major expense is rent.

Coping with the ever increasing cost of rent in downtown Iowa City has been a struggle for the Bike Library in the past, and was a major concern when it began look for a new space last fall.

“We’re still looking at our options,” Gieselman explained. She said she couldn’t be more specific about those options at the moment, but felt confident there is now a good way forward for the Bike Library.

“Before we had some drastic measures on the table,” Gieselman said. “But now those drastic measures have been pushed off to the side.”

Gieselman said that she had heard from many members of the community after news of the move broke in September.

“People were concerned. A lot of people were surprised, because of how many times we’ve moved, and wondered why this keeps happening,” Gieselman said. “We also heard from a lot people about what the Bike Library has meant to them. How they first started cycling, or extended what they knew about cycling through their experience with the Bike Library. Or how they made social connections through the Bike Library.”

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“We’ve been getting a lot of positive stories and support. People see us as valuable resource,” she added. “It’s been really encouraging.”