Retired schoolteacher now rescues bikes and finds them new homes both in the CRD and overseas
Tim Storm repaired and donated over 30 bikes to immigrants since the start of the pandemic. After stuffing his car with a dozen disassembled bikes carefully stacked for maximum efficiency, he drove from his sleepy suburban neighborhood down to Crystal Pool, where he would reassemble the bikes and line them up against a fence. Soon after, families arrived and picked used bikes from Storm’s stock.
Storm’s efforts are part of a COVID-19 initiative with the Compassionate Resource Warehouse, Intercultural Assocation of Greater Victoria, and Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Center Society (VIRCS) to provide newcomer families a safe way to get around and have fun.*
“Something that was somebody’s throwaway is now something useful for another person. And all it took was an hour of work,” said Storm, who is no stranger to rescuing bikes — he’s fixed up more than 1 200 in the last two years.
During our interview in his garage, where I had interrupted him halfway through sorting through the guts of a bike, Storm casually mentioned that he’s already repaired eight bikes that day. Tall and wiry, he is just as happy to talk as he is to continue ripping up old bikes and refreshing them into new cycling machines.
During COVID-19, Storm has begun working closer to home to connect local communities with bikes. He estimates that he’s given away around 50 bikes in the city since the start of the pandemic.
Unwanted bikes are sourced from private donors, police, and the workers at Hartland landfill — whom he is especially grateful for — as they put aside bikes for Storm to pick up a few times every week. Some bikes are easier to fix than others, but replacement parts still need to be sourced. Once in a while, Storm refurbishes bikes to sell on the used market to pay for parts and the gas money needed to shuffle bikes to and from his house. But ninety-five percent of the time, he’s working on bikes that will be donated.
The fruits of his labour are evident: cookies and heart-warming notes show up on his doorstep, with people taking the long trek into his suburb to show their gratitude.
The former Stelly’s Secondary School rowing coach and teacher has kept busy after retiring in 2016. Storm typically spends a few hours every day working on bikes in his garage, where an abundance of stripped frames and neatly sorted parts make you feel like you’re in a bike shop.
Storm was deeply involved in the Global Perspectives program at Stelly’s, which aims to give students opportunities to make a positive change in the world. In the first year, students would focus on learning about homelessness, drug addiction, mental health, and gender inequality in class and out of school by volunteering with local initiatives such as Our Place. Second-year students would get the opportunity to spend 18 days working with marginalized communities overseas, helping to build infrastructure projects in the Global South with money fundraised in Victoria. Previously completed projects included schools in Peru and a women’s shelter in Nepal.
“Our goal was to come back with the next year’s group and have a look at what the community did,” said Storm, who spoke fondly of his 15-year involvement in the program.
One particular school trip remains fixed in his memory. Storm had taken a cohort of students to a village high up in the Andes Mountains to build a school and wood stoves. Every day they passed a young woman who sat next to the village road, watching them. Too curious to resist, one of his students struck up a conversation with some Peruvian Spanish they learnt through the Sidney Library, and the woman revealed that she had been paraplegic since birth. Hearing this, Storm was determined to find a solution.
When Storm returned to Victoria, he started searching for rugged wheelchairs suitable for the mountain terrain. After a few escalating calls with Air Canada — who had initially wanted a $1 000 surcharge — Storm was able to get two wheelchairs into the Andes for the next year’s trip, for the young Andean girl and her aunt, who also had limited mobility.
“These young women got into the wheelchairs and they were so excited,” said Storm. For the first time, they could go anywhere they wanted to go.
In his final year of teaching, Storm received the Great Teachers award that celebrated his 27 years of teaching and accomplishments.
While Storm is now happily retired, he hasn’t stopped giving back to the international community. His encounter with the Andean girls seems to have inspired him to give many more gifts of agency and transportation. After retirement, he now volunteers with Compassionate Resource Warehouse — the charity that found those wheelchairs — fixing up discarded bikes to be shipped overseas in storage containers for charity.
Storm initially had little knowledge of how to fix a bike. While he knew how to maintain a bike from his bike touring days, he credits Youtube videos for his repair skills.
“Bicycles are an amazing piece of engineering and can change lives,” said Storm. Some of his bikes have been given to travelling doctors in developing countries, who are now able to go further and visit more patients.
In a 2016 interview with Black Press Media, Storm spoke about how he was looking for a new way to create opportunities for young people in his retirement. Four years later, he may have just found exactly that. Rescuing bikes for strangers both near and far, Storm doesn’t seem to have slowed down any one bit.
On summer weekends, neighborhood kids hang out near his house and ask the retired schoolteacher to fix their bikes.
“It’s a gift for me: not from me, for me, to do something,” said Storm.
*An earlier version of this article indicated Storm was working with only the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria. This has since been corrected, and the two other organizations Storm works with have been added: Compassionate Resource Warehouse and Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Center Society (VIRCS).