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Whistle Stop Co-op will give away free bikes and ORCA cards

Lee and Burkhart in the Whistle Stop cafe seating area.

Whistle Stop Co-op Cafe and Bike Shop near Othello Station will be giving away free bikes and ORCA Cards as part of a program to remove barriers to cycling and transit use in Rainier Valley. The program, dubbed Live Free or Drive, is funded by a Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment grant.

We wrote recently about Whistle Stop’s unique business model and determination to keep the doors open. In an oddly-shaped lot adjacent to Othello Station, founders Mona Lee and Dick Burkhart saw needs in their community for both a coffee shop (at the time there were none, though now there are three shops on the corner) and a place for affordable bike sales and repair.

Lee (who also writes the blog Old Lady on a Bike) wrote about the program for the Rainier Valley Post:


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Whistle Stop, a nonprofit cooperative, will be giving away free bicycle and Orca cards for commuting to work, school, shopping or other daily activities.   Whistle Stop staff work with project participants on route planning as well as appropriate clothing and equipment for alternative transportation commuting.

“Live Free or Drive” is funded by a grant from Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment. OSE has awarded seven contracts to groups in different communities throughout Seattle to address health and climate impacts.  The Whistle Stop project is designed to remove some of the barriers to cycling and transit use in the Rainier Valley.  The City believes that partnering with residents and businesses can help inspire people to make healthy choices for themselves and the environment.

Live Free or Drive participants don’t have to be as committed as Burkhart and Lee.  There is no specific requirement for how often they have to use the bike and/or Orca card they get.  A few times per week might do for a start, and biking in the rain is not necessarily required.  But each participant has to keep a diary describing where they go each day and how they get there.  They also have to attend at least one free workshop in alternative transportation competencies such as  bicycle safety, how to access transit information and plan trips, and the environmental benefits of alternative transportation.  The city will use Live Free or Drive results to help determine the effectiveness of this kind of program in reducing car usage.  Information gleaned from all seven projects will provide input to the City’s future Climate Action Plan.

For more information about Live Free or Drive, drop in anytime at Whistle Stop Co-op, at 7148 Martin Luther King Way on the northeast corner of Martin Luther King and Othello Street beside the Othello light rail station and the #8 bus stop.   To schedule an intake appointment and apply for the program, phone Mona Lee 206-898-5452.   You might be eligible for a free bike and/or Orca card.

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