We are excited to bring mobile bike repair to Burlington.
Why mobile bike repair?
The idea all started after we surveyed our Everybody Bikes program customers last year and found that the biggest barrier to accessing our subsidized bikes and repair services was getting to the shop.
Imagine: your bike is your main source of transportation. It gets a flat or has some other mechanical issue. You have neither the tools to fix it nor the knowledge. You live several miles from a bike shop and a half mile from a bus stop. The bus schedule layered on top of your work schedule layered on top of the bike shop's hours leaves only a narrow window of time for getting your bike to the shop. You can arrange for a ride from a friend, but it's a hassle because they work, too, and you have to remove one of your wheels to squeeze your bike in their trunk and you're not sure how to do that without messing up the brakes.
Even without all these challenges, getting your bike in the shop is another bullet on the ever-expanding to-do list. Life gets busy and the spring/summer/fall passes while weeds tangle themselves around your spokes.
We couldn't get over the idea that simple repairs are preventing people from riding their bikes -- especially those folks who can benefit most from the convenience of bicycling and the myriad economic and health benefits.
We asked ourselves: How can we bring affordable bike repair to people where they're at?
Meanwhile we were entering our third year of partnership with Spectrum's Multicultural Youth Program (MYP). We've run summer bike clubs with the Multicultural Youth Program for two years and many of the teens are getting older and starting to think about finding summer jobs. The addition of a job-training component to bike club made sense. Making the training and work experience fun and engaging was critical to getting teens to sign up and stick with it.
Given the recent trend of mobile bike repair businesses, the idea for the Mobile Repair Unit came easy. The Mobile Repair Unit checks all of our boxes: it makes biking more accessible to people, it provides an opportunity for young people to gain transferable job skills, serve their communities, and earn money, and it's totally weird and fun.
Plus, our professional mechanics can finally say 'yes' to the many requests from local businesses, schools, and organizations to provide on-site workshops and repair services to their students and employees -- and revenue generated through these contracts will help cover our costs of providing free and subsidized repair services to those who need it.
It took a village to make the Mobile Repair Unit a reality:
Spectrum's Multicultural Youth Program worked with us to recruit teens and plan an intensive 30-hour mechanical and job training at our Community Workshop.
A generous donor helped us purchase an Xtracycle Bosch Electric Edgerunner 8E to serve as the base of the Mobile Repair Unit.
Local woodworker Hannah Bush of the South End Joinery built and installed the gorgeous double-sided work bench and tool boards.
Generous support from Vermont Community Foundation, Ben & Jerry's Community Action Team, and Northfield Savings Bank helped us purchase tools, bike stands, materials, and stipends to pay the mechanics-in-training.
Nic of the Champlain College Transportation office contributed the sweet logo die-cuts to go on the tool boards.
Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront's Nutritional and Recreation Drop-In Programs provided a venue for the Mobile Repair Unit to reach residents of affordable housing complexes located miles away from the closest bike shops. We settled on visiting folks at South Meadows apartments in the South End and Franklin Square in the New North End once each week throughout July and August. In July, the Mobile Repair Unit team consists of Dadir, Elijah, Tom, and Christine. Here they are at South Meadows last week:
Have ideas for where the Mobile Repair Unit should go? Email Christine with ideas or requests.
Thank you to our generous sponsors for supporting the Mobile Repair Unit: