Jeremy Lewis was named the first executive director of the Des Moines Bicycle Collective in October. Since moving back to Iowa after stints in Seattle and Washington, D.C., Lewis has held director-level positions at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, One Iowa and the 2012 presidential campaign of Barack Obama. He brings to the position a love of bicycling, and he joins a growing organization. The collective this year moved to the East Village and through October had already set organization records in number of bikes donated (250), bikes recycled (500) and B-cycle bike-share checkouts (2,796). 


What interested you in the position of executive director?

I know people often say “Do what you love,” but I think you have to be really lucky in many cases to make a career out of what you love. So I feel incredibly lucky right now. It’s pretty simple, really. I love biking. To me, it means freedom, the outdoors and being active. I also love connecting with people and helping others. 


How will your past experiences help you in this job?

I’ve spent the last eight years working in various community-minded organizations. I’ve done a lot of fundraising, which is important to nonprofit sustainability, but as is the case with most nonprofits, I’ve been actively involved with so many parts of the organizations. 


What are your goals with the position?

My overall goal is to make Greater Des Moines a more bike-friendly community. Within that, three things interest me most: Getting kids more excited about biking, getting bikes in the hands of people who need them the most, and safety and education about biking. 


What should the business community know about the collective, and what can they do to help?

A strong biking community provides direct economic benefits to neighboring businesses. Living here in Des Moines, we’re sort of in the center of very successful large organizations that recruit from a pool of great talent around the country. For a lot of young professionals these days, and the older generation of workers, public health is (important). Really, it’s about attracting and retaining high-quality talent for Des Moines businesses. It’s about increasing the health of the community, but it’s also about providing amenities that high-quality employees want and get in larger cities. 

If you are familiar with our B-cycle bike-sharing program, businesses want those right in front of their business. It’s one of their selling points for what they are providing to their staff. It’s about making it easier for their employees to be active, be physically fit, be out there in the community, and biking is just one way to do that. So I really look forward to having additional conversations, many conversations, in the year ahead with our area businesses. 


Do you have any good RAGBRAI stories?

Well, I was exposed to RAGBRAI when I was about 11 years old. We went from Polk City to Des Moines, and then the next year, I was in sixth grade and rode across the state with my family, which was a great experience. But moving back and getting to experience RAGBRAI as an adult is a totally different experience than riding RAGBRAI as a kid. The most memorable thing for me on RAGBRAI is it has been an opportunity for my wife and me to jump on a tandem – my wife is from the West Coast – and be able to really see what Iowa has to offer. 


What else do you do for fun?

I find every excuse to be outdoors. I help with the local elementary school garden club and coach youth soccer. I spend time with my family enjoying the sights of Central Iowa by riding and walking along one of our many interesting trails.


Lewis’ Three goals for himself

1. Get children more excited about bicycling: This could include expanding the “Bike to Work Month” concept to schools. Lewis would like to develop partnerships with school administrators and find “champions” for biking within area schools.

2. Get bicycles to people who need them: “We’ll take any serviceable bike that can be donated our way, and we encourage people to do that,” Lewis said. The goal is to get more bicycles donated and have volunteers fix up those bikes.

3. Promote bicycle safety and education: Fulfilling this goal is largely a function of raising the resources to offer more educational classes. That could require corporate partnerships.