Training, employing, and helping those in need get back on their bike are crucial services to expand ridership. And we do it all by bike!

a cargo bike brings tools and supplies to the parks
Our e-cargo Bullitt bike brings all the tools and supplies to parks and community centers.

The 2020 version of our Mobile Bike Repair programs looks a little different, as with many things this summer. The need is unchanged, or perhaps higher, due to so many more people on bikes this season. Bikes were sold out in shops, and even big box stores, around the country, creating a need to fix what was out there and for many who lost jobs the costs and weeks of wait times though a local bike shop made repairs inaccessible.

Bike Fed sponsors two programs, our Milwaukee one and the expansion into Madison.

Milwaukee

Now in its 7th year of bringing repairs directly to those in need staff have made an impact on 1000s of residents over the years. This year with school out of session and usual communication and connection channels disrupted we brought back our long time youth young men to work with our lead mechanic, Anthony.

A young man wearing a mask trues a rear bicycle wheel with a spoke wrench
John has worked with us for 5 years
A person digs through a basket of bicycle parts.
Jean Carlo Aleman-Tenorio has been working with Mobile Bike Repair for 6 years now. His favorite part of working with the program is getting to help people, and he credits it with helping him develop his communication skills.

We have visited sites all over the city. We have partnered with the Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, the COAs at both Kadish and Moody Parks, and now with Sixteenth Street Community Health Center at Lincoln Avenue School. Our next sites will be at Bounce Milwaukee, Zablocki School (thanks again to SSCHC), and a return trip to Neighborhood House for our last week at the end of August. Finally, along with other colleagues at the Bike Fed, we have arranged for programming to be produced and distributed for the Milwaukee Public Library, that will cover both bicycle safety and basic bike mechanics for youth.

So far we have fixed over 100 bikes for over 60 families at 4 sites! In cooperation with Dreambikes, we have fixed an added 70 children’s bikes to be given back to the community this summer.

Several of the MBR locations are many miles from any local bike shop, so this is the only easy and regular access many people have to bike repairs. They know and recognize us from years past, and they wait to utilize our services every summer. This year especially, given the impact of the novel coronavirus, many more bikes have been brought out of storage to be ridden as a safer and distanced exercise and social activity, and they have needed repairs and tuneups. This has created a lot of stress for many LBS and also stressed the supply chain for bike parts, but as many of our parts come from recycling donations, we have been less affected by these issues. Even then, many folks that sought repairs at their LBS were turned away due to cost or time, and MBR is able to put these perfectly fixable bikes back on the street for exercise, recreation, and transportation, where they would otherwise be sitting unused or end up in the trash. The 100+ bikes that we have fixed have given a lot of people relief from the boredom of a summer where many events have been canceled and a distraction from what has been an extremely stressful 5 months for most of the population, in addition to providing folks with needed low-cost transportation and exercise.

On our last day at Moody Park, an older gentleman brought us two bikes to fix. He had been riding around the park daily and had stopped to chat on a few occasions throughout the week, sharing memories of the park and his love of bicycles. The two bicycles had seen better days, and one needed a new rear wheel, but they were only a few hours of work away from being rideable. He was able to find a wheel, and at the end of the day, both bikes were fixed and working well. As I was packing up to leave and chatting with the older gentleman again while he picked up the bikes, two young boys came up and asked if repairs were still going on. Unfortunately, I told them, we could no longer fix up their bikes today, as most of the tools were packed up and it was well past when we were scheduled to leave. I offered them information on our future repair dates, but they were unlikely to be able to travel to another site. Crestfallen, they prepared to head home, when the old man gave them the two bikes that were just fixed up and took their broken bikes with him.

Anthony Casagrande, MKE lead Mechanic

MADISON

A group of kids work on a bicycle in a repair stand while two instructors help. The instructors have maskes, some kids do others do not.
Pepe looks on as the youth learn the skills needed to repair bikes

Pepe worked for our Milwaukee program for a year before he re-located to Madison where he has helped us to expand the program and make new connections. His “franchise” Down with Bikes are doing great things there and we look forward to continue to expand opportunities for under served communities of Madison with 5 new Fix It stations going in this year!

Two young residents learn about the Fix-It station just installed at Kennedy Heights in Madison
Two young residents learn about the Fix-It station just installed at Kennedy Heights in Madison

This has been a different season, so we have had to be creative on where and how often to set up. We have been able to serve a total of 67 bikes this summer, so far. We have been at Centro Hispano, Meadowood, Teresa Terrace, Monroe St Farmers Market, Kennedy Heights Neighborhood, Regent neighborhood and Eken Park neighborhood.

MJ is 8 years old. He likes riding bikes fast, and everything done quickly. He has learned how some things require extra time and that it is ok to ride slowly too. Natalia is 13 years old. Before the lock down she used to do triathlons. Because of the pandemic she was feeling lazy and discharged, but with the program she has regained the spark of biking. They and their many friends at Kennedy Heights neighborhood Center have learned how to fix their flat tires and how to put wheels back on their bikes. Now they feel like nothing can’t stop their biking adventures!

Omar is 58 years old and he takes care of his grandchildren. Not all of them have bikes, so he has been looking for ways to get them one. That’s why he picked up a bike that somebody had thrown into the Wingra Creek and brought it to us. “This one I picked up from the creek, so if there’s nothing you can do, that’s fine” he said. Surprisingly, the bike was not so bad. We did replace all cables, housing and the chain, but all other moving parts were working great. Now Omar can take all his grandkids for a bike ride around town!

These programs benefit our communities in different ways. They give access back to the joy of biking, it opens the door for a healthier life and also gives hope during the pandemic. We are also allowing families to have things to do together, while enjoying nature. Finally, with the educational programs, youth are learning how there’s really nothing that can stop them from having fun this summer, because with their collective knowledge, and the fix-it station provided with help of the Madison Community Foundation, they will be able to keep their bikes safe and sound, at the same time that they learn something new and connect with each other.

Pepe Barros
A man wearing a mask helps a girl install a front bicycle wheel.