Three years ago we partnered with Layton Boulevard West Neighbors to launch the Mobile Bike Repair/Bici Taller Mobile in the neighborhoods around our Milwaukee office. The idea was to address the need for basic repairs in the bicycle shop desert on Milwaukee’s near southwest side. In addition to doing basic repairs, we trained area youth in bicycle mechanics and hired the top students in the class to work as apprentices with our head mechanics throughout the summer while our program was running. Our first trike broke from the weight of all the tools and the custom box, so we traded the Virtue Bikes some photographs for the Virtue Gondolier cargo trike we now use for our south side program.
The south side program was so well received that in fall of 2015 we decided to expand it to the north side.We purchased a Larry vs Harry Bullitt cargo bike and it is now based out of our Valid Bike Shop in North Division High School, where we also maintain our fleet of 150 bicycles for our Safe Routes to School programming.
This past spring we were able to increase the funding for these programs through some generous donations from individuals as well as through our very popular Polish Moon Ride . We hired three Milwaukee youth, Gabe, John, and Hezekiah, to work alongside our skilled Mobile Repair Coordinators, Chris Keidel and Brennan Kreiman. Gabe had returned to us after working in 2015 on south side program and being hired at Dream Bikes. We also had a youth volunteer, Jean who is a student at Escuela Verde, work sites when he was able. Jean has shown lots of promise as a future advocate by incorporating bikes and his school community into a special project to get through school with the goal of getting more people to choose a bike as a transportation option. John and Hezekiah are both students at North Division, and after the summer John was hired to participate in further training and job programs through the Boys and Girls Club this winter.
This season’s story can be told in a few ways. Numerical is one way, and we took data on all 342 people who’s bikes we worked on. We served people ages 5-85, 98% of those served were either African American or Hispanic. 26% identified as Female (we will look to improve that stat in the future and reach out to more to female focused groups/clubs.) We would also love to hire a female mechanic so spread the word we are looking!
But perhaps the best story can be told by the qualitative stories and experiences.
CHRIS KEIDEL Northside Coordinator: “John and Hezekiah were very excited and proud, not only because they had a summer job, but for both it was their first. Every chance they had between repairs the first 2 weeks there were many questions about how to figure the amount of their first paycheck, how to figure taxes, and what to do with all that money. When people around the neighborhood got word that we were fixing bikes at the park for free, we sometimes had 20+ kids and as many bikes surrounding us at one time. Kids and parents asking questions, looking at our tools, climbing all over our cargo bike, or just watching us work. Many of the repairs were simple, air up tires, raise a seat, or adjust the handlebars to be more comfortable. John and Hezekiah became very proficient in patching/replacing tubes, making small adjustments to derailleur and brake issues. There was nothing better than all the smiles from young and old, also a heartfelt thank you with what a blessing we were from the parents. Some of our customers sought us out, especially Reggie and his buddies. These guys rode everyday and their bikes showed some wear, every week something needed to be replaced or adjusted. When it was our last week out there they stopped for some repairs and asking about parts. I mentioned it was our last week for the summer program, not only did we get their bikes in order for the long winter but they brought a few family members as well. I do know that John and Hezekiah are taking this experience with them on their search to find a part time winter season job at some local bike shops not far from their homes”
If you would like to donate to ensure future Mobile Bike Repair training and summer youth jobs please contact me.