• John Jantak

Le Zébre Rouge seeks affordable facility to relocate its bike repair enterprise


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Le Zébre Rouge Director General Benoît Bourassa (left) and a group of participants stand next to a pile of bicycles that will be refurbished over the winter at their temporary location on Valois Street in Vaudreuil-Dorion. The not-for-profit organization which provides employment opportunities to people with mental health issues is seeking a more affordable location to continue its operations before its current lease expires in six months.

Benoît Bourassa is already preparing for winter. The Director General of Le Zébre Rouge is busy with his team assembling a large Tempo shelter to store a huge pile of used bicycles stacked atop an asphalt-paved backyard behind their temporary headquarters on Valois Street in Vaudreuil-Dorion.

His team will work to refurbish the bicycles over the next six months but Bourassa worries about what will come afterwards. He took time from his hectic schedule to speak to The Journal about his hopes for finding a new location Le Zébre Rouge can afford on Tuesday, October 8.

Special needs participants

Le Zébre Rouge is a not-for-profit, social economy enterprise that employs people with mental health issues to repair and service bicycles in Vaudreuil-Dorion. The organization has become well-known not only in the community but throughout the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region as well.

Perhaps you’ve even ridden on a refurbished bicycle from Le Zébre Rouge without realizing it. A fleet of their bikes are available for residents from throughout the region for free use from mid-May through mid-October through the Vélo-Cité loan service that operates in Vaudreuil-Dorion.

Affordable location required

Le Zébre Rouge was originally located on St. Charles Avenue but increasing rent forced the organization to seek a more affordable location. They relocated to 198A Valois but only have about six months left before their current lease expires.

Bourassa isn’t sure whether they’ll be able to find an affordable place before then. He worries about the 15 participants in the program who work to fix the bikes. He also has four employees who work full-time and receive subsidies for their salaries. There are also 20 people who work on a volunteer basis.

Steady part-time apprenticeships

Participants in the program are given the opportunity to have steady, part-time apprenticeships which helps them to develop transferable skills in several employment sectors. During the winter months, participants devote their time exclusively to refurbishing bikes to get them ready for the summer cycling season.

They’re the backbone of the organization whose primary purpose is to increase the independence, skills and employability of young adults who want to improve their living conditions.

Sense of validation

Working at Le Zébre Rouge helps to give participants a sense of validation and it gets them out of the house, said Bourassa. The organization has been established for 15 years now. They refurbish and repair about 500 bikes annually and have a website and social media presence on Facebook and Instagram to promote their services including the bike loan program through Vélo-Cité.

Bourassa doesn’t know what will happen to his participants or employees if Le Zébre Rouge doesn’t find another more affordable place to relocate. He’s working with the city to explore options. He’s also reached out to Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP Peter Schiefke, Soulanges CAQ MNA Marilyne Picard and Vaudreuil Liberal MNA Marie-Claude Nichols to advise them of the situation Le Zébre Rouge is facing.

For more information, visit the Zébre Rouge website at http://www.zebrerouge.org/.

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