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Bicycle Infrastructure

Red Hook Gets An Outdoor Bike Co-Op Starting This Weekend

12:01 AM EDT on October 30, 2020

Look at the peaceful happiness you can achieve just from working on a bike. This could be you! Photo: Mechanical Gardens Bike Co-op

If your bike has been making that weird clicking noise when you shift gears, you should probably take care of it. And starting this weekend, you'll have a place to learn how to do just that, when the Mechanical Gardens Bike Co-op opens the city's first outdoor bike repair education center.

Mechanical Gardens, which describes itself as like a soup kitchen for bikes, has taught people to repair bikes with weekly donation-based classes at St. John's Church in Williamsburg. But on Sunday, Nov. 1, the co-op will open a permanent, pandemic-friendly home at 98 Dikeman St., that can offer more regular hours for people interested in learning how to tune up their rides, an opportunity that Mechanical Gardens' Executive Director Josh Bisker said is more necessary than ever during the bike boom.

As more New Yorkers buy old used bikes that have years of deferred maintenance clogging things up, or bikes with substandard parts from big box stores, Bisker says that the co-op is a place for new riders from all walks of life to learn the finer points of caring for their rides.

"Countless New Yorkers can’t afford to keep their bikes in working order, and countless others are systemically excluded from bike shops, the bike industry, and the mechanic’s trade because of their gender, race, age, or geography," Bisker said in a statement announcing the Red Hook location.

This weekend's grand opening will go from noon until 4 p.m., and include programming like winter bike riding classes, free bike repair and a "long-sleeve bikini" bike wash which really only drives home the point that summer has to come back immediately. Bisker also said that the co-op is taking notes on the kind of programming it should include with a community design process on opening day, so definitely show up if you want to have a hand in guiding how the whole place operates.

Bisker told Streetsblog that the hazy outline for the Red Hook space is to make it a place where someone can get a simple repair done, but also learn to be the gear head who their friends bother for help with the simplest bike issues (raise the seat? Really?). The Red Hook co-op also aims to be the kind of space where the Garden can continue the kind of work it led this summer, when mechanics and volunteers from BIPOC communities built bikes for healthcare workers who wanted to be able to ride their bikes to work.

"Some people want to go from zero-to-mechanic over time, and it's 100 percent going to be a place where anyone can do that. We're eventually planning to host open drop-in hours (our core program), plus sequential courses, one-off classes, formal and informal workshops, and more. And yet, some people just need to get rolling, and can't get fair access to service at bike shops. So we're going to reach out and see what people need," Bisker said, suggesting a future where aspiring mechanics will do minor repairs as a way to learn on the job.

If it works for dental school...

Mechanical Gardens can be found here:

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