• Nick Zacharias

Le Zèbre Rouge on the move


Benoît Bourassa (at centre, wearing his face shield) and some of the team at Le Zèbre Rouge have been hard at work to gear up the new location and get lots of people out on refurbished or rented bikes this spring.

It’s been a harrowing ride for the staff of popular Vaudreuil-Dorion bike shop Le Zèbre Rouge. Over the past year they’ve moved from their old location on Avenue Saint-Charles, where their giant silver and red zebra statue brightened up the street, to a brief turn on Valois Road, and finally to their new, long-term location on Route de Lotbinière, just below Harwood Boulevard in Dorion.

“We didn’t know until just a week before we were out of our other location that this new space was going to work out for us,” said Director General Benoît Bourassa . “Right until the last minute we didn’t know if we’d have anywhere to go.”

Thankfully, the not-for-profit business, which is dedicated to improving the lives of those living with mental health issues, found a new home just moments before literally finding themselves in the streets. Pierre-André Paquette, owner of the building that formerly housed Lou-Tec tool rentals, made arrangements with them for a new five-year lease just in time. “We’re grateful to all of our people and many volunteers who helped us complete the move at the beginning of May,” said Bourassa .

Back in high gear

Now operating at full speed, they’re helping hundreds of people rediscover the joys of a sunny afternoon spent on a socially-distanced bike ride.

“We take in donated bicycles, and then refurbish them for sale at affordable prices,” said Bourassa. “When we opened again business just exploded. In a given year we move about 2,500 bicycles, but in the past weeks we’ve really been going crazy.”

No doubt a reason for the rush, aside from the high number of people with more time on their hands during the pandemic, is the environmental incentive program offered by the city of Vaudreuil-Dorion. Any Vaudreuil-Dorion resident who purchases a new bicycle can apply for a $50 credit from the city, and for used bicycles the credit is $75. This makes getting a new ride more attainable, especially when refurbished bikes at Le Zèbre Rouge are available in all shapes and sizes in the $100-$200 range, and even less for kids’ bikes. After the rebate, that means an average adult can get equipped to get on the roads and trails for easily under $100.

Riding for a good cause

A critical element for the organization, started by founder Jean-Noël Bilodeau in 2004, is to provide jobs for those with mental health issues who might otherwise struggle to find employment. Says Bourassa, “It’s a great thing. It really helps them to have a sense of accomplishment, of pride. And to give them confidence for life.”

Not only do they provide jobs and sell affordable bicycles, they also offer a full repair service and even rent bikes for $10 a day, meaning anyone can get outdoors and get some exercise.

Some adjustments to make

“With COVID-19 it’s been difficult for staff,” said Bourassa, who normally has a crew of 15. “Some of them live with their parents, who might be older and can’t risk exposure, so we don’t want to take chances. But we have 13 now, and we’re rotating shifts so no one’s overburdened.” They encourage customers to call in advance to make appointments so they can better manage with sanitizing and distancing measures.

And what of that iconic zebra?

“Unfortunately, after surviving all the moves, it finally fell victim to the strong winds we had last week and was destroyed,” lamented Bourassa. “But we’re planning to put up a new sign so everyone knows where we are.”

Where they are is 115 route De Lotbinière, Vaudreuil-Dorion, and they can be contacted at www.zebrerouge.org or by calling (450) 424-2422 Monday through Saturday.