Shop owners hope to improve Brookings community with affordable bicycle options

The recent thaw on campus has summoned SDSU students from hibernation. Bikes and longboards are making a comeback as common forms of transportation while students make their way to class.

Plans from the Brookings Bicycle Advisory Committee to add bike paths across the city are currently in the works by the BBAC and Brookings City Council. According to Mike Lockrem, chair of the BBAC, the goal is to connect Brookings to campus and make the city easier for cyclists to navigate.

Lockrem said a community engagement survey was sent out in September. Although the survey only received feedback from 3 percent of the community, the results clearly showed students want more bike-friendly connections between campus and retail locations, as well as a path on Sixth Street. The Sixth Street path is planned to be completed by 2019.

The owners of Bluestem Bicycles in downtown Brookings listed many advantages of biking in Brookings.

“It’s so easy. Everything is so close,” co-owner Ming Stephens said. “We don’t have that much traffic; the streets are wide.”

Co-owner Caleb Evenson said other advantages of biking to campus are not worrying about paying for fuel or parking. Biking also saves time, and the activity can improve moods.

“Seasonal depression is a real thing, and biking in the winter can help with that,” Evenson said.

Stephens and Evenson opened Bluestem Bicycles along with Casey McCormick in July 2016 after deciding their nonprofit, Bicycle House, was not where they wanted it to be.

“I felt like a nonprofit didn’t really have the support in this community to succeed and make a big impact,” Stephens said.

Evenson and McCormick worked together at Sioux River Bicycles and Fitness, also located in downtown Brookings.

“I personally felt that I needed a new career path and Ming was very encouraging,” Evenson said.

After receiving a $10,000 grant from the Brookings Economic Development Corp., Bluestem Bicycles came to be.

The shop sells a selection of bikes, including independent retailers, and provides maintenance and repair services. There are also accessories and gear available.

The owners centered their business around the fact that most customers are balancing the costs of college, so Bluestem Bicycles aims to bring what Stephens calls “affordable quality” to the biking community. Bikes cost as little as $45, and a valid student ID will get customers a 10 percent discount.

Evenson also said he has been connecting his business to SDSU by assisting the Human Powered Vehicle Team and riding with the Bicycle Club.

As the Brookings bike infrastructure continues to develop, the owners of Bluestem Bicycles encourage people to check out their shop and merchandise and to be in a social hub for bike enthusiasts.

“Everyone’s welcome,” Evenson said.