Marcus Fetch has a passion for cycling, and he knows that the benefits of riding a bike stretch far beyond improved physical health and reduced pollution. Through Redemptive Cycles, he is making strides toward bridging socioeconomic and racial gaps in our community, all while educating Birmingham on an enjoyable, and important, form of exercise.
How did you come up with the idea for Redemptive Cycles?
Redemptive started in a warehouse in Woodlawn, summer of 2012. I found a bulk of 40 bikes for sale on Craigslist and knew a number of guys on the streets that needed bikes. Familiar with Earn-a-bike programs in other cities, I started one in Birmingham open on Saturdays. After a year, we decided to open up the bike shop. The bicycle has an incredible impact on peoples’ lives. The average person who relies on public transit spends 44 days per year in commute, spending upwards of 30% of their income simply transporting themselves. The primary use of a bicycle cuts these numbers in half. In addition, direct connection with your surroundings, self sufficiency development and a drastic increase in physical health all come along with it. The fact that bicycles can help thousands of people is a no-brainer, but the fact that there are thousands of unused bikes sitting in garages that could be donated made it so much easier to believe in.
Why is cycling an important resource for our community?
Public Transit has been in decline over the past 40 years in major cities, making it more difficult for people to commute, and disconnecting us from our surroundings. The personal automobile is an extremely inefficient transit system on a mass level in any concentrated urban area. I read last year that the human is the least efficient animal on the planet, but when given a bicycle, they become the most efficient. Almost no other invention can compare! In addition, close to half of the total square footage of our city is reserved for parking, and yet we still struggle to find parking spots. That’s absurd!
Cycling increases health, local business, community engagement and vibrancy in any city; making it possibly one of the biggest infrastructures any city should invest in. Three years ago, there were maybe a few people a day riding through downtown, now there are hundreds. Redemptive has proudly distributed over 2,500 bicycles over the past three years, 80% of them going to new riders. You put 2,000 new cyclists in a city, and everything gets better.
How can the average Birmingham denizen get involved with and give back to your business?
The bike shop generates 75% of its own revenue to fund our operations for the year. We depend on public donations, corporate sponsorships and grants to make up the difference. We even have a monthly membership where you can donate monthly and receive a bunch of great perks while you’re at it.
We depend strongly on volunteers as well. Anyone is welcome to come in and volunteer any time and day of the week that we’re open, and there are plenty of things to do outside of fixing bikes so don’t worry if you’re not mechanically inclined!
Above all, be a part of what’s happening. We do a lot of events throughout the year, like our big annual September, CycleFest. Our most famous event has to be our ongoing group ride, the Trample! Over 100 riders every Thursday night gather behind the shop and parade through downtown. It is incredibly fun, all are welcome and don’t worry if you’re a new rider, it’s a very chill ride.
Where are the best places in Birmingham for a bike ride?
I prefer riding in downtown. I love seeing the buildings and people, feeling the movement and energy of the city, rolling through the parks and climbing up parking lot decks. On a bike, it’s like a giant concrete playground, and it’s a lot safer than some people think.
How has the Birmingham community responded to your business?
The Birmingham community has been incredibly supportive over the years. We receive kind words and compliments everywhere we go, and a lot of residents have given what they can over the years to keep Redemptive going. More importantly, our mission was to allow the bike shop to be a second home for people where all are welcome and where people can form healthy relationships with each other. The “RC Family” phrase has been used strongly for years, allowing people to connect and become part of a larger group of people that care about them. This inclusive atmosphere that we have worked so hard to build has created an amazingly diverse RC community, powerfully bridging the socioeconomic and racial gaps in our city. I believe this change is something our city deeply needs, and we are proud to encourage it. Above all though, loving people with out any strings attached, and working to improve our communities’ quality of life is the light of our hearts, and we just use bicycles to do it.