Audrey Wiedemeier was named the new executive director of the Iowa City Bike Library on June 1, but Wiedemeier isn’t a newcomer to either the local cycling community or the Bike Library.
Wiedemeier, an avid cyclist since her childhood in Ames, is the founder and director of RadTour, which conducts group cycling events in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids areas. Wiedemeier has also worked at the Bike Library, both as a volunteer and as a member of Americorps.
“I love the Bike Library, it’s a very special place,” Wiedemeier said. “And I was ready for a change, and happened to be in a place where I was available to go full-time into a position.”
The Iowa City nonprofit 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.
Most people keep the bike.
The executive director is the only paid staff position at the Bike Library, which is staffed by volunteers. Wiedemeier is the second executive director, following Cody Gieselman in the role.
Wiedemeier said she plans to continue the current programs offered by the Bike Library, such as the twice-a-week Rent-a-Bench, when members of the public can get a space to work on their bikes, using the Bike Library’s tools and getting advice from Bike Library volunteers.
But Wiedemeier said one of her favorite programs is the Bike Library’s newest one: WTF Night.
“WTF stands for women, transgender and femme. It’s every Tuesday, 6 to 8 p.m.,” Wiedemeier explained. “Any who identifies as a woman, transgender or femme can have free access to the tools. We’re trying to make it an inviting, female space.”
“One of the reasons I do what I do is that I really want to increase the number of female cyclists.”
“My brain works better when I get a ride in, even if it’s just 10 minutes,” Wiedemeier said. “But I’ll go out for a two-hour ride, and be flooded with so many emotions and so many ideas.”
Wiedemeier also sees a wider social importance to cycling. “I’m a die-hard [bike] commuter,” she said. “There’s a freedom in being able to get yourself somewhere without the use of a car or gasoline.”
The idea of encouraging people to enjoy that freedom helped inspire Wiedemeier to create RadTour. The group rides visit local farms, and feature meals by chefs using ingredients from those farms. The events link cycling to locally sourced farm-to-table eating.
“Cycling and eating locally is our way of decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels and corporate agriculture,” Wiedemeier said.
RadTour will be undergoing a major change now that Wiedemeier is the Bike Library’s executive director. “RadTour is scaling back, and will now just be RadTour Iowa City,” she said. “It will be a fundraiser for the Bike Library.”
Raising funds is always a challenge, but it’s a challenge that’s gotten even harder recently because the Bike Library is having to move. In September, the Bike Library was informed it would not be able to renew its lease on its current location at 700 S Dubuque St where it had been located for a year. Since then, it has received a series of extensions but that borrowed time may be about to end.
“We’re waiting to hear if we’ll get another extension,” Wiedemeier said. “If we do not, we’ll have to be out in August.”
The search is underway for a long-term home, but finding a home in Iowa City isn’t easy for a small nonprofit that has the storage and workspace needs of the Bike Library.
“Quality is less important than quantity right now,” Wiedemeier said. “We need about 3,500 square feet of space.”
“We need to be centrally located — close to downtown, within walking distance for students,” she added. “We don’t have a very big revenue stream, so finding a place with rent that is affordable is challenging.”
Wiedemeier asked that anyone who knows of a potential new space for the Bike Library email her at firstname.lastname@example.org