I ride a bike. For most of the last 40+ years I have owned a bike. I have owned more bikes than I have cars, and they have outlasted several cars. When employed, they have been my primary form of transportation aside from public transit or walking. Don’t get me wrong, I love driving and road trips and the convenience cars can provide. I simply hate how much we as a society have come to depend on them, as well as the environmental impact on the planet.
A few months back I pulled my bike out of its forced winter storage and gave a look. I had stopped riding it almost a year ago when it started acting up – acting up being the term I use for mechanical problems beyond my scope of knowledge or ability. I took the bike into a local shop and winced in advance at what it would cost to get it road-worthy. Worse, they had a backlog of repairs and it could be weeks before they could get to my bike.
I looked around on the internet for other bike shops that did repairs. As I couldn’t ride my bike to the shops I would have to bring it there by car. In any direction, no matter which shop I decided to take my bike to, I would pass a half-dozen gas stations with garages that performed routine maintenance and repairs on cars. It didn’t hit me then but it did today, as I was riding around on my new bike doing errands, that there should be more bike repair shops than auto shops.
And those bike repair shops should be at high schools.
In a large number of cities the police impound stolen and abandoned bikes and then sell them at auction. Sometimes there are beat-to-heck bikes among the weekly trash cans on the curb. And all over, people have non working bikes collecting dust and rust and cobwebs in their garages. But what if all these could be donated to a high school and become project bikes for students in a bike shop class? They could learn everything from striping down frames, painting, gear assembly, maintenance and repair. At the end of the semester students could (for a nominal fee to cover parts) purchase the bikes they have worked on or allow the school to sell them to the public. For advanced students there could be a bike clinic where they taught other students how to do basic maintenance on their own bikes – replacing flats and adjusting brakes and whatnot – and on weekends they could open the repair shop to local citizens and charge for their services.
How the heck is this not a win-win situation? You get more kids interested in bikes, who can then evangelize the benefits of bikes, and a community repair shop that supports kids, schools, and education. It’s got recycling built into it, it’s gotta be cheaper than a lot of other industrial arts to get running, and it sends the message that adults and educators believe that bikes are and should be an important part of lives.
Please, I beg you, tell me what could be wrong with this idea?