Diverse not Splintered

the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (BAW) was in spokane for a reception last month. this is a picture of louise mcgrody from the BAW and a happy supporter.

we spent a few minutes at the start of the evening introducing ourselves and saying how we’re connected with bicycling. we heard from local BAW folks, Bicycle Advisory Board members, an REI outreach represenative, INW Trails Coalition members, and other bike folks. it was great to see so many of us out on a cold thursday night, talking about biking in spokane.

one topic that came up was if our city needs a full or part-time BAW representative. we were all excited about that prospect. someone to help organize events around bike-to-work month? someone to help get a bike boulevard or two in our city? someone to possibly work with the city on other bike-related issues? oh, hell yeah!!!

later, there was another question. there we were, a diverse bunch of biker/hikers, roadies, mtn bikers, commuters,educators,advocates, etc. as a rapidly growing city, how do we work together to maximize our influence? how do we stay connected and in touch with what we’re all trying to do?

diversity is fantastic. it’s evident in nature when you have a more diverse populations (bugs, plants, animals, trees species), the whole ecosystem benefits. the system is stronger, more resistant to destructive influences, more productive, more better : )

diversity is a strength when it comes to our budding bike culture and our city as well. we have several bike shops, bike clubs, trails, trail supporters, and cyclists. what we don’t want to do is become splintered. maybe the BAW can be the group that brings us all together. i love the idea of an annual reception. let’s have more pizza, more drinks, more bike rides, more meet-and-greets. bring it on bicycle alliance of washington! i think we’re ready.

We've Got Bike Stacking Space!

The big missing piece to our full-on participation in the Village Bike Project was finding a space to hold the bikes until they’re ready to be loaded in a container. We scored a spot today. Paul Fish, the owner of Mountain Gear has hooked us up. As a thank you, go spend your next paycheck at Mountain Gear.

Mountain Gear HQ (in the Spokane Valley) has a “bike room.” It’s a room with bike racks and a small bikeshop for employees to fix their bikes. There is also a guy on staff (Jerry?) who is also a bike mechanic and helps with wrenching on bikes. I saw signs with “bike stuff for sale” and they said something about how there are “parts available” or something. Cool place. I took a spy photo.

click for bigger.

Without getting too gushy here, it’s obvious that Paul is a guy that lives his values. I saw many examples of this while visiting and heard them in talking to him. He’s very into the idea behind the VBP and it’s an honor for us to consider him and his employees a partner in this project.

The Plan

The “steering committee” of P2P met last Saturday. Our main goals were to get the scope of our mission statement finalized; figure out how to organize our group; and define a set of “Phase 1” projects. I’ll lay out the basics here; we are in the process of formalizing all of this with a goal of getting a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit status.

As we progress down this road, we’ll be sharing more details — my hope is that we’ll just be posting all of our articles of incorporation, bylaws, and 501c3 application online here. There may be some obvious reason that we shouldn’t do this, but after seeing other documents like this online, I don’t see why.

Anyway; in a nutshell:

Mission Statement. This is not final, but we wanted to open it up a bit, so we don’t get in a situation where we want to do something, but it falls outside the scope of our mission statement.

“Using the bicycle as a tool to empower people and to build healthier communities.”

That’s the basic statement, but we’ll be following it with a set of statements that express our values, which are summed up with the following words/phrases: sustainable, healthy communities,increasing bike ridership and ownership,community action, inclusion, transportation, environmental, light footprint, recycling, reuse, rehabilitate, outreach, empowerment, teaching, secular organization, tool.


Some interesting (to us?) bits about how we’ll be organizing our board:

  • 5 voting members.
  • No significant others/partners/relatives on the board.
  • All members are active volunteers in the org: at least 50 hours/yr (not including board meetings)
  • All members are volunteers. No members may pull any kind of salary/benefits from P2P
  • Meetings are closed; president may invite guests. One annual meeting will be open to anyone.
  • Quorum is 4. Four votes required to change by laws/vote out members. Basic decision making: 3 votes.
  • Minimum of 11 meetings annually
  • Terms are 3 years. Four consecutive terms max. One year off to reset.

Phase 1 Projects: we had a huge number of projects that we want to do. We narrowed the Phase 1’ers down to this list. We don’t have a milestone for Phase 2, but each project has an owner with internal milestones. This is the fun stuff. In time, we’ll build up a web page for each project on our site.

  • Community Bike Tune Ups: we’ve been doing these and they’ve been great. This is where we go to places in the community and do free tune ups. We’ll do at least one a month from May – Sept.
  • Village Bike Project: This is a huge and great project to be a part of. It also solves a lot of issues for us and our ability to collect donated bikes. Space is still an open issue.
  • Build-A-Beater: we’re doing this right now with a guy as a test run and it seems good. The basic idea here is that we’ll take a person on Monday or Weds nights for a few weeks and they’ll build up their own bike from the bits we have. The guy doing this right now is building a single-speed winter bike. When your done, you give us a donation and you have a beater or a basic grocery getter. We’re not talking high-zoot here; we’re talking highly-reliable basic transportation.
  • Basic Bike Repair Class: Liza teaches this already and it’s a great class. For learning basic road-side repair; bike maintenance, and the tire change.
  • Used Bike Sales: this is pretty low on the priority list, but every now and then we get a sweet old cruiser or a pretty decent commuter-type bike. We’ll likely craiglist it. But we do have a couple potential options for bringing them to events to sell.
  • Kid’s Bikes: in the past we’ve been giving bikes away to anyone who wants one. We’re getting out of that business for a number of reasons. But we do think kids should have bikes. Most kids get bikes and don’t have to pay for them. We’re looking to partner with some local women/children shelter type places to make sure the kids there have bikes.
  • Donated Bikes: again, if we find the space for the Village Bike Project bikes, we’ll be set. Once that space is figured out, we’ll start taking donations again. And we won’t have to be so selective. We’ll take it all.
  • Ad hoc projects: stuff comes up; we want to do one-time events that make sense. Stuff like the Farmer’s Market on Oct 6th, or the Local Flair Street Fair or Pride Parade that we did.
  • Monday/Weds nights at our shop: We’ll be staffing the garage from 6-9 M/Ws to take donated bikes; flatten bikes for VBP; strip or repair other bikes. This is also when we’ll have our “build-a-beater” person working on their bike.

Phase 2: Here’s a laundry list of projects we would like to do in the future: Create-a-commuter; earn-a-bike; bike bucket sales/class; workshop rental; downtown bike parking/showers; rent-a-bike-downtown; partnering with other non-profits for a variety of stuff; community cycling center.

Volunteers: One place we’ve had a hard time is figuring out a good way to bring in volunteers and get them set up and successful. We’ve had folks come to help and we’ve not had a good plan for getting them working and going. Our future success relies completely on building a strong and passionate network of volunteers.

To make this a reality, we are developing some basic projects along with a list of steps/handbook to make sure that any and all volunteers can come to our events and provide value. Every M/W night, we’ll have at least one trained member whose job it is to take in new volunteers and get them going on a task and to stay with them until they are productive.

You don’t have to be a bike mechanic to volunteer here. Contact us if you’re interested in volunteering: pedals2people@gmail.com

So that’s the nutshell version. Stay tuned.

Keep on Pedaling

this little guy just turned 3. he’s been riding a two-wheeler since he was 2–wow! i was stunned, so i asked his mom if i could take his picture. i’ve only heard of these mythological creatures, never seen one in person. he’s one of those kids that just starting riding one day–no pressure from the parents, no guidance. amazing.

this kiddo and many others came to shadle park with their families to participate in the Group Health kids’ bike races. the races are low-key, mildly-competitive, and fun. they take place around spokane, so people don’t have to drive all over to attend. some folks like them so much, they make it to several races. if you don’t have kids or particularly like them, this event wouldn’t appeal to you. i love these types of events. not for the competition, but for the organized chaos, the energy, the interaction with cool people. i love seeing spazzy kids on bikes,ringing their bells,strutting around in their gear–leapord print sweatsuits for some, lycra for others. REI does the tech-support for the races, so i was there pumping tires and adjusting brakes. i was cheering-on the racers as well.

i hope the kids had a memorable time. i hope they keep on pedaling.

Getting to the Farmer's Market

(Click map to open up the interactive Google map in a new window)

Beth is working with the folks at the Spokane Farmer’s Market to introduce some bike stuff there. P2P will have a presence at the Market on Oct 6th and there’s some talk of being more involved next Spring. We’ll see what Beth cooks up.

One thing the folks at Farmer’s Market asked us to do was to recommend some bike routes. The Farmer’s Market is just in a tough spot for biking. So no matter what, if you’re biking there, you’re biking on some busy-ish streets, which can be a hard sell for folks that are not used to riding in traffic.

The routes we’ve recommended here are mostly on main roads where you’ll have the right-of-way. There are a few exceptions.

What new riders don’t often understand is that riding with traffic on roads with the right-of-way is much safer than riding through uncontrolled intersections. There is a perception of safety when you stay on the side streets, but it is more dangerous, as you’re just not as likely to be seen or expected.

When you ride out in the lane, cars see you and must go around or yield to you. Follow the law as you would if you where a slow vehicle. If you’re holding up more than 5 cars, pull over and let them pass. Generally,if you travel on roads where there are 2 lanes of travel in your direction,cars can easily go around you. Especially in Spokane.

On Saturday morning you’ll find the streets pretty bare, even Division, 3rd, and 2nd.

Stay off the sidewalks, follow the traffic laws, and enjoy the ride.

Wear it in, wear it out…

David, John & Mike

this photo, you see David Peckham of the Village Bicycle Project
talking with John and Mike up at the garage. We invited David to look
over our inventory and see how much of our junk would be worth sending
to Ghana.

Almost all of it, it turns out.

In David’s right
hand (resting on the seat of John’s craptacular new trike) is a rusty
old single-piece crank. We had dumped it into a box with some other junk
that was destined for recycling. After all, we’re up to our necks in
single-piece cranks, why on earth would we keep a rusty one?

David said these parts are very valuable in Africa, that they will use
and reuse parts until they’re worn down to practically nothing. He told
us of chunks of rubber flip-flops being used in place of bottom bracket
bearings, of pieces of tire tube being spliced together with needle and
thread, of a man cutting a tin can with a machete to fashion a washer
to hold a spoke nipple in place.

I’ve always been a hardware packrat. The bottom of my toolbox is filled
with nuts, bolts and other odds and ends – even an old broken
derailleur that I’ve been carrying around for over a decade because,
well,You Never Know When You Might Need It.

I was always a little embarrased by my own compulsive hoarding.
But now,as I’m stripping down wrecked bikes or prepping good ones for
shipment to Africa, every last piece, no matter how rusty or battered,
simply glows with potential. I was seriously debating whether to trash
a twisted suspension fork from a Wal-Mart bike, knowing full well that
someone would figure out a way to straighten it and make it work.

in addition to piles of bikes, we’ll no doubt be sending over some
boxes of parts as well. I might even use the opportunity to part with
that old broken derailleur.

Practice,practice, practice

it usually takes me about 5 attempts before i feel comfortable and confident with a new skill. do something correctly the first time, and it could be dumb luck. do that thing correctly several more times, and you are SOLID

beth hit that magic number and even went beyond it the other night at our tune-up event. she patched 7 holes in a tube! and not because she couldn’t get the patch to stick. beth had aced the fine art of vulcanization on her first try. she patched 6 more holes in the same tube because the tire was ridden around when flat, and the rim had cut 7 different holes in the tube. beth was determined and vigilant, and she sealed every one of those snake bites. she was even showing another woman how to prep and patch a tube.

here’s how to fix a flat if you’ve never done it. or just ask beth next time you see her. i bet she’d even give you a demo…

Patching a flat 101:

  1. pump the tube up with air and encircle the tube with your hand. run your hand around the tube to feel for air while it escapes the tube.
  2. after locating the hole/s, prep the surface by scratching the inner tube with sandpaper. the prepped area should be larger than the patch that you will apply.
  3. cover the prepped area with rubber cement. the area should be slightly bigger than the patch you will apply. this ensures that the entire patch will attach, even around the edges.
  4. wait 5 full minutes!!! this is critical! you can wait longer, but DO NOT continue until the rubber cement is fully dried.
  5. peel the patch from the foil backing and attach it to the prepped area. place the patch squarely over the hole.
  6. firmly attach the patch by rubbing it with a tire iron, a nickle, or other hard object. pay special attention to the edges of the patch.
  7. carefully peel off plastic backing. this is not like a band aid. do not peel this backing off quickly. if the edges of the patch pull away from the tube, try to remove another corner of plastic backing.
  8. fill the tube with a bit of air to check that your patch is holding. redo if any air escapes.

Community Outreach

one thing our group really enjoys doing is community outreach–one shot events where we go into the community and do stuff. it’s wonderful for lots of reasons. we don’t yet have a space where the public can come to us for services, so we need to hook up with different community centers, etc. the outreach events generally don’t cost very much money, so that’s great. generally, we print a few fliers, and that’s the bulk of our “cost.” the time commitment spans 2 hours (or so), so we’re not devoting long hours to program development and implementation. and, we love hanging out in spokane’s distinct neighborhoods, chatting with folks, and enjoying the outdoors.

last night, at emmanuel lutheran in browne’s addition, we held another free bike tune-up. it was a small group that showed up. two graduates of the P2P basics class,catherine and one of her sons,came for a derailluer fix, and they brought a friend who was having problems with his primary transportation: a mongoose mtn bike. we got the mongoose running, “better than it’s ever been,” exclaimed the owner as he sped off, testing his new brakes. we were also able to catch up with catherine. she said her kids have been teaching other kids in their area simple bike fixes. how cool?!?!

Have You Heard of VBP?

village bicycle project (VBP), based in moscow, idaho, works within a larger nonprofit organization that centers around environmental issues. VBP focuses on shipping used bikes and new tools to ghana, africa. they also teach basic bike maintenance to the ghanians so they can keep their new wheels turning. jon snyder of outthere monthly did an interview with VBPs director, david peckham. read the article here.

an inspiring article. one, for the fact that VBPs approach is very organic. in peckham’s own words, they didn’t start with a “set idea.” their plan has changed, and they remained flexible and open to that reality. they look at the problems facing the people of ghana, and they work to find solutions. or as peckham states, “it has all been lessons.” two, VBP moves away from the old school (“multi-lateral plan backed by big money”) approach to development. working with people and not simply using big money to solve the issues.

i wish i could be here to talk to peckham when he’s in spokane for the screening of the VBP documentary,Ayamye. ken and mike will have the opportunity to talk with him instead (luckies!) i hope they glean more wise words and lessons for P2P. and i hope the film gets a good turnout,Saturday, September 15, at the Magic Lantern Theater, 7 PM.

Wheelbuilding or "the best things in life aren't easy"

wheelbuilding is a lot like knitting or weaving. you pick a pattern, chose your materials, do your thing, carefully and repeatedly, in a sequence of steps, and you have a beautiful piece of handiwork when you’re done. wheelbuilding, like knitting, is truly difficult for me. it has never been easy. not since the first time i learned, with my husband trying to help me comprehend Sheldon Brown’s instructions, to this last time, with mismatched nipple sizes and an offset rim, augh!

when i build wheels i always get my UBI manual out,so i can reference it when i get lost. i usually make a careless mistake. i typically take more than 2 hours to lace,true and tension a wheel. even though frustrating and time consuming, the result is so awesome and so worth it. it’s damn near perfect when i’m finished, and i love it. it’s unique, strong and true.

the learning is slow (so slow!!!), but the only way to get better at wheelbuilding is to build wheels, over and over again. it’s true of most things in life that take time and are worthwhile. if it were easy, would i still appreciate it or keep trying like i do? probably not : )

latest wheels: Velocity Synergy 650b rims, Shimano Dynamo (front), Shimano 105 (rear) hubs, DT Swiss 15g spokes