Self-serve bike repair stations open up pathways to mobility

Just as a car needs an oil change, a bike needs a greased chain; a car needs air in its tires and so do bike wheels; and loose steering columns or wobbly handlebars need to be fixed all the same.

With the increasing population of cyclists taking over these swamplands, more and more of them are finding a need for affordable and accessible bike repair shops necessary. Cue Erick Green and his students to come save the day with new free bike repair stations, which are to open this year. Green is an instructor at Gainesville Job Corps, a local no-cost educational and technical training center supported by the U.S. Department of Labor.

  “It’s more about access than anything else,” he said. “The two new stations will be put on either side of town and will be free to use, so anyone can fix their bike and have the access to mobility.”

The repair shops will be located at Gainesville’s St. Francis House on South Main Street and Southwest Advocacy Group located at 807 SW 64th Terrace.

“The idea is to give all bikers a chance to ride and to use alternative transportation, no matter what economic class you come from, and I think that’s fantastic,” said 27-year-old Arthur Rosales, University of Florida graduate student and former bike delivery employee at Jimmy Johns.

 These bike stations won’t necessarily be big, and be sure you come prepared to do your own work. At no cost, anyone can come in, prop their bike up and get to work using the tools that come attached to the station. From flats, to replacements and adjustments, the tools provided should be enough to fix any problem. The stations will only be 4.5 by 5 ft. tall and painted black.

“They should come with laminated manuals or a ‘How To’ guide as well so people can understand exactly what they need to do to fix the problem they’re having,” said Rosales.

 The stations encourage everyone to have mobility access, they also provide the community with valuable tools and knowledge when it comes to bike repair. Often taken for granted, the mere access to these tools is a privilege.

“With the tools in your hands, it becomes your responsibility to fix the problem,” said Rosales.

According to Dekova Batey, the Gainesville Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Coordinator, the construction of the new bike stations should be underway by late February. The Job Corps group will be assembling parts in their warehouse as on-site preparations take place.

Green and his students at Job Corps have been helping the biking community since 2012, when they built a few bike lockers, including a bike locker big enough to stow larger-than-normal bikes (cargo bikes, for example). Because of the success of his bike lockers, Green was approached again by the GBPP to create the stations.

Cyclists aren’t the only ones benefiting from these new stations, though. Green’s students are learning and developing with the project as well. With the majority of his students coming from all different parts of the country, working with the community has proven to be eye opening for them.

“I want them to come here and get in touch with the Gainesville community by helping out, but then I also want them to take something with them back to their own homes and communities,” said Green. “It’s important to be involved with those around you.”

Green and his students are also helping out the Alachua County Emerging Leaders project by taking on the responsibility of installing three bicycle pumps in downtown Gainesville. The pumps will be located close to the three new bike racks put in by the Community Redevelopment Agency, which include spaces next to The Top Restaurant, the Alachua County Administration Building and the Hippodrome/Boca Fiesta area.

 “As much as we cater to those driving cars and mopeds, we need to take care of the community using their bikes to get places,” says Green, “and I’m really happy to help out.”