Iowa City Bike Library looks to a new frontier

After relocating three times within in 15 years, the Bike Library is “dragging” its bikes to a permanent home.


Ryan Adams

Bike Library Executive Director Audrey Wiedemeier poses for a portrait at the new Gilbert Street location in Iowa City on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Bike Library Inc. is a volunteer-run project in Iowa City that allows community members to check out and buy restored bicycles.

Grace Hamilton, News Reporter

For Iowa City’s Bike Library, the month of February has been the “final drag” to finally find a place to call home.

“We are calling the whole month of February ‘The Final Drag; A New Bicycling Frontier,’” said Bike Library Executive Director Audrey Wiedemeier. “In the last 16 years, the Bike Library has taken refuge in a lot of different locations, but we’ve purchased our own building and can now put down some roots.”

Wiedemeier said the Bike Library will open up in a new location at 1222 S. Gilbert Court on March 1.

The Bike Library’s current location was bought by developers, she said, causing the nonprofit to search for a new place to continue its mission of refurbishing bikes.

Wiedemeier said the Bike Library’s new home is located in an ideal place to meet Iowa City’s bicycling needs.

“We’re excited about the location,” she said. “It’s still within walking distance of the campus. It’s closer to the south district, where we have many partnerships, and it’s pretty close to the riverfront crossing trails. Our new location is nestled in this triangle between a lot of people we serve.”

Bike Library Board Member Mike Haverkamp said the Bike Library’s current relocation marks the organization’s fourth move since its 2004 opening.

“It’s a big jump, especially for a nonprofit organization, but it’s a necessary one,” Haverkamp said. “In our current location, you carry the bikes down a winding staircase to get to the basement. The new location is much more convenient, but I won’t be in as good of shape.”

Although the Bike Library is upgrading to a one-story building with 7,000 square feet, Haverkamp said the building will soon become crowded with more bikes.

“The Bike Library is a gas, and we expand to the volume of our container,” he said. “What we’ve continued to see and what we are so dependent on are those people who make donations of bicycles and bicycle parts to us. Between COVID-19 and Marie Kondo, we’ve seen a good supply of donations coming in through the pandemic.”

Interest in biking nationwide skyrocketed as Americans looked for outdoor forms of leisure and transportation during a global pandemic. During March, 2020 nationwide sales of bike equipment and repair doubled compared to the previous year, according to N.P.D. Group, a market research company. The Iowa City Bike Library was no exception, Bike Library board member Karen Stierler said.

“With COVID-19, I think the whole biking thing has gotten bigger,” Stierler said. “Just getting outside for sanity’s sake has been so popular, so I think we’ve been able to send a lot of bikes out the door.”

At the end of the month, the organization is bringing the final drag to life.

“On February 28 at 5:00, we are inviting our volunteers, donors, and anyone who wants to dress in drag and meet at 700 South Dubuque Street to ride to our new location,” Wiedemeier said.

Wiedemeier added that the Bike Library team plans to brave the cold in drag to celebrate settling into a location they can now call home.

“When you are riding a bike, there’s a feeling of freedom,” she said. “And in performing — not just in drag, but in any art — there is a sense of freedom in how you express yourself. We are leaning into those parallels.”