While doing research for our upcoming book: BIKE NYC, I’ve visited almost every bike shop in the 5 boroughs. Along the way I’ve meet a ton of interesting shop owners and heard their stories about how they made their journeys into the world of bike retail and repair.
I just found this in depth article which interviews one such owner, Charlie McCorkell, who along with mechanic Hal Ruzal opened Bicycle Habitat in 1977. That makes it one of the oldest shops in NYC, besides Bellitte Bicycles in Jamaica Queens, who beat them by opening in 1918, but that’s another story.
Charlie was a real pioneer in the bicycle world, not only opening up a shop back when there weren’t any around, but also becoming the executive director of Transportation Alternatives and putting an engineering degree to good use by changing a lot of what NYC was doing wrong for his fellow cyclists. He used direct action to protest too little access to the bridges and eventually worked with the city to remove stairs on the Brooklyn Bridge. He would also do DIY things like paint in his own bike lanes, long before they were doing in on Bedford Ave.
The article is from a new site called capitalnewyork.com which is culture and news stories about, “How New York works.”
Here it is:
In a changed city, Soho bike mecca Bicycle Habitat grows up
by Gillian Reagan,
Aug. 31, 2010
McCorkell at his station. Photo by Erin Nicole Brown Photography.
On a summer afternoon walking up Lafayette Street toward Houston, just past Spring, youâ€™re likely to approach a cluster of characters on the sidewalk. Itâ€™s hard to tell what everyone is doing there, but they all have bikes. Theyâ€™re looking at bikes, testing bikes, locking up bikes, putting air in bike tires, sitting in storefronts nearby talking about bikes while drinking iced coffee from La Colombe cafe down the street.
Itâ€™s because of the independent bike shop, Bicycle Habitat, which has been selling bikes to everyone from hardcore messengers and utilitarian commuters to wispy Soho model types for some 33 years now.
On one such afternoon recently Hal Ruzal, the affable shaman of bike mechanics in New York, with hefty dreads hanging down past his chest, tanned arms bulging from a sleeveless T-shirt, wrestled with a frame of a track bike at the front of the room, where his work is visible from the street. Sales staffers shuffled around him, fetching bike parts or running to another mechanic’s station in the back of the room to work on other bikes.
Read the entire article here.