The HUB (an acronym which stands for Hudson Urban Bicycles), is a bike shop in Manhattan’s West Village whose survival is on the line after the introduction of Citibike, New York City’s 4-month-old bike sharing program. Both sales and rentals are down fifty percent since June.
The shop is of a different mold than what American consumers are accustomed to. It does not deal in “sport bikes.” Instead, they sell Dutch-style transportation bikes. The rider sits upright instead of hunched over the handlebars, and casings over the wheels and chains ensure that clothing will not become dirtied or snagged while riding. The emphasis is on practical city commuting rather than speed.
The shop exists off-the-grid, without power, water, or heat. They collect rainwater to flush the toilets and use a gasoline-powered generator for the few compact fluorescent bulbs that hang throughout the space. The owner, George Bliss, employees, and customers speak very fondly of the entire riding philosophy that the HUB stands for, as well as the community of people that are involved in it. They don’t want to see it wiped out by a city program that they feel has surrounded them, with 5 docking stations in the immediate vicinity of the store. Bliss foresees closing for the winter, and isn’t sure what spring will bring.
The HUB bicycle shop in Manhattan’s West Village on Oct. 16, 2013.
The HUB promotes the use of Dutch-style bicycles.
Owner George Bliss, with his dog Moxie, is passionate about his biking philosophy. He thinks the biking community in the U.S. can be fanatical and intimidating for the uninitiated, and turn people off to incorporating biking into their daily routine. “The Dutch aren’t into bicycles any more than Americans are into refrigerators. They have them–it’s part of their lifestyle.”
The seats are wider and more comfortable to sit on that the standard racing or mountain bike.
The walls are covered in historic images of people riding bikes.
Repair tickets are posted on the wall. The shop does “fix and sells,” repairs, and lets bike owners park their bikes at the shop.
Bike mechanic Jeremy Boniello works on a bike in the back of the shop.
Delilah Jones describes herself as the weekday “Bike Rental Girl.”
“Citibike is putting us out of business. Look around. It’s a warm day in mid-October. There’s literally no one in the shop right now,” she says.
One of a few bike repair areas.
Moxie is under a year old, but already knows the ropes of being a shop dog. Even though she’s in heat, she’s a calm presence.
By various estimates of the employees and owner, there are between 300 and 500 bikes in the shop.
Bicycle bells are for sale next to the cash register, hanging on a fire escape sculpture fashioned by a friend of George Bliss, the owner. His interests in designing, inventing, and building also extend beyond the bicycle realm. He’s very interested in treehouses right now. He is currently working on a spiral staircase using a huge loom in the back of the shop. It’s in the beginning stages and not very photogenic…
The bike that Nevada Harris (pictured below) has been cleaning this afternoon is pretty dirty.
Intern Nevada Harris is a student at City As School–an alternative public high school whose students engage in hands-on learning throughout the city. “We’re not trying to be that cool bike shop that has sports bikes. My eyes are being opened,” she says.
Regular customer Jedi Sanchez rides away from The HUB on his rental bike to do errands around the city. “I love this bike shop,” he says.
Lesson learned (or still to be learned): Editing photos down from hundreds to under a dozen is nearly impossible for an indecisive person. Like children, you love them equally. *Sigh*