COVID-19 has set off a national bicycle shortage, intensifying NYC’s long standing bike equity crisis. The Mechanical Gardens Bike Co-op intends to answer this challenge with a Dunkirk-style bike levy: we are putting out a massive call to property management companies, universities, and the public for every discarded, derelict, and abandoned bike in town, training local residents to repair and refurbish them, and distributing them far and wide to people who need them.
The City is donating space for a temporary pilot program to bring resources to bear where the need is most urgent: getting bikes to health care workers. The Awesome Foundation grant lets us provide stipends for a group of LGBTQ+ BIPOC youth leaders from the Fearless Flyers ride club, who we’ll bring on board as apprentice mechanics. In a hands-on, learn-as-you-go education program, we will build fifty bikes that will go directly to front line workers confronting the COVID pandemic. The Awesome Foundation makes it possible for us to pay youth participants who otherwise face challenges finding employment, allowing us to train them in repair skills that they can use and build upon in the future. This project builds local capacity and community resiliency while building bikes for people who need them.
The timing of this pilot program and the Bike Levy are critical: urban mobility is a frontline against structural racism and democratic inequality, COVID has made bicycling critical to safe movement in NYC, and the pandemic has intensified our longstanding bike equity gap by creating a critical scarcity in affordable bikes. This scarcity hits hardest against the very people who perennially face barriers to accessing bikes and repairs: those who can’t afford to purchase, repair, or maintain a bike, and those who have always faced systemic discrimination in bike shops, the bike industry, and the mechanic’s trade. In NYC, like elsewhere, race and gender are the gatekeepers of access. Here, black, brown, female, gender nonbinary, and poor people are simultaneously the most disenfranchised from biking, the most reliant upon bicycling for essential transportation, liberty from harassment, and civic empowerment, and, today, the most susceptible to death and destitution from coronavirus. If we want to reduce the disparate consequences of COVID devastation in historically marginalized communities, we need fair access to bikes, repairs, and mechanical education.
By unlocking a nearly endless supply of bikes from the waste stream, and teaching more New Yorkers to repair their bikes — keeping countless bikes on the road instead of from being sidelined by break-downs and malfunctions — we can close the bike equity gap in NYC. The Awesome Foundation is helping us do it.
Want to get involved?
- Donate money (Mechanical Gardens is a 501c3)! Refurbishing a derelict bike can cost about $200-$250 in parts and labor. Most of this usually comes through in-kind donations from bike shops plus service time that people volunteer, but COVID has disrupted both parts of that ecosystem, so these costs are increasingly real
- Donate a bike! Email email@example.com to arrange a drop-off, or if you have a number of bikes, we can arrange for a pick-up and can provide tax write-off paperwork as well.
- Donate space! Space is the ultimate arbiter of this program's success. An interim or long-term commercial space agreement could unlock this project's larger potential. If you are a property manager or have connections to space (even outdoor space where we could put shipping containers for temporary programming), let's talk!
- Follow along on IG and FB!
- Do you need a bike? We're figuring out the best system for free or pay-what-you-wish distribution right now -- get in touch and tell us about your needs and situation. FYI, right now we're focusing on health care workers, people in economic jeopardy, and folks who have had their bikes confiscated by the police during protests.
- Do you want a personal zoom-in mechanical training for you or your organization? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Funded by New York City, NY (June 2020)