UThis morning I awoke still feeling a little tired from yesterday’s event. Tired but happy. I participated in a bike rodeo and kids bike give-away yesterday at the Booker T. Washington housing complex in east Austin. Major Taylor Club of Austin, Austin’s Yellow Bike Project, The Ghisallo Foundation and Austin Cycling Association supported the effort. And we got a nice assist from Mellow Johnny’s bike shop with a truck to move bikes and some pop-up tents for shade. Oh, and a bag of 20″ inner tubes. We needed a lot of those (more on that later).
I helped transport bikes and assisted in set-up. Brought a few supplies from the shop and my personal tool set/bike stand. After getting set up I turned loose on fixing bikes that kids brought to the event. That was hectic. It was hot, humid and there were a lot of kids with bikes. We didn’t have the right parts for many of the problems. The biggest problem seemed to be brake and shifter cables, which we didn’t bring with us. There were some broken shifters, bent rims, broken spokes, missing pedals…
…and flat tires. Lots and lots of flat tires. Many of them just needed air. Many needed new tubes. I lost track of the number of tubes I replaced. Somewhere north of 10. My fellow mechanics were just as busy.
“See a need, fill a need”
I felt a little like Rodney from the animated movie Robots. Kids can be hard on bicycles. Heaven knows I was. That is one major reason I learned how to work on a bike: to keep mine going. Many of the problems were simple wear and tear on low quality bikes (and bike shaped objects). Much of it could be remedied or prevented by a little TLC and regular maintenance.
And there is the little nagging issue that made me wake up at 3 in the morning. The kids in this housing complex don’t have access to tools and parts. Many of them haven’t been taught how to make simple repairs and adjustments. And even though it might appear that the Yellow Bike shop is close, it might as well be on the dark side of the moon for many of these kids. Which makes me a little sad. When I was growing up that 1.5 miles was a trivial distance and easily within my roaming radius.
As we were repairing bikes and explaining why we couldn’t repair some things, we tried to explain what we did and where our shop was. I have no doubt that some parents and guardians will manage to visit the shop. But I see a need to either provide a mobile workshop or find a way to get kids and their bikes to our shop. Along with this is a way to provide more shop time. Which is one of the major issues we’re trying to find ways to address. Either more shop coordinators so that we can offer more shop time or we’ll need to think about paid staff.
I’ve got a few ideas. Members of the collective have some good ideas. Other organizations are looking at the same issues. The big challenge is finding a way to implement and sustain.