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On November 29th, CommonWheels finished out a strong season of Open Shops and DIY Community Bike Repairs with a new community event called the Ally Skills Workshop: Combatting Sexism and Transphobia. The workshop was led by Kendra Albert and gave great information on guiding ways to intervene and support women and trans people when we notice sexism and transphobia. We broke into two groups and brainstormed ways to respond to scenarios that included examples of explicit and subtle sexism and transphobia.
The scenarios sparked great conversation and were a great entry point for developing the skill of allyship. The hearty/committed attendees who came out despite the rain participated with lots of energy. Thank you to Doug Johnson from the Boston Cyclists Union for lending a projector and Jackson Mann Community Center for providing the space!

Over at CommonWheels it was an exciting first event to spark some important discussion in Boston bike communities. The event was also helpful as we continue to think about and develop our efforts to create supportive and inclusive spaces for bikers. As a result of the workshop, we will start having name tags for bikers to write down their names and preferred pronouns at our Open Shops and other community programs. The name tags are one way to continue building a thoughtful environment and an opportunity for conversation and education around preferred pronouns! Please reach out to CommonWheels with any feedback, thoughts, questions about the training or ideas for building affirming spaces!
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Bike Education at Jackson Mann School

Our CommonWheels staff is blazing the way at Jackson Mann K-8 School. One of our Program Managers, Sophie, warmed up the bike program by helping Coach Magee last spring, and she has built the fall curriculum off of that initial start. The biking unit will go through October and resume in the spring.

We are developing our approach when educating youth and creating a curriculum that is supportive and accessible to students regardless of their prior experience with biking.  The curriculum does this by creating a range of interdisciplinary access points. During out first two classes we have done ice breakers, team building activities, a package opening activity, assigned each child a bike and helmet, and pumped up the tires. There will be opportunities for students to perform and share biking related writing and art, Bibliocycle the Mobile Boston Public Library bike will be visiting, and we will have interactive relays and opportunities for new riders to develop riding skills in an encouraging space.


Summer Safe Biking Class

Earlier this month, Commonwheels hosted a week long "Summer Safe Biking" program in partnership with the Harvard Ed Portal. We had 13 local kids from the Allston-Brighton neighborhood participate and for three hours each day they learned bike safety, basic mechanics, and practiced riding. About half of the students brought their own bike, and half borrowed bikes that had been donated to Commonwheels.

The first day started with a brief pre-quiz which everyone protested because it was summer and quizzes are for school. Once they suffered through the quiz, students were given a helmet and learned how to check the ABC's (Air, Brakes, Chain) on their bikes. The second half of class the kids practiced their bike handling skills by riding through an obstacle course and riding in a close group with their classmates.

The following days started with a lesson on a part of the bike where we mixed in enough activities to keep it exciting. Such as when we learned about flat tires, the class was split into two groups and raced to see who could be the first to pump up their tube and make it explode. Each afternoon pushed their riding abilities even further with games like "basketball" to practice riding one handed and eventually building up to bike rides along the Charles River on Thursday and Friday.

We had one student, Gabriella, who learned to ride over the course of the week. She began the class extremely nervous about riding, but by Friday she was proudly riding around the parking lot on her own and smiling while doing it! At the end of the week, each participant received a certificate of achievement, a set of bike lights, a U-lock, tire levers, and a bike safety booklet. The following week, those who did not have their own bikes were invited back along with their families, where they were given the bikes they had been riding all week! Since the end of the program, we've had two of the students come visit us at our open shops and we are excited for the participants to stay connected with CommonWheels! A big shout out to Jason and Ellen at the Ed Portal for organizing and helping to run the program!


After School at Open Shop!

Recently at a Wednesday Open Shop, a boy came up to me and introduced himself as Philip, a fifth grader from up the street. He said his gym teacher told him about CommonWheels and that he could learn about bikes and he was just wondering if he could fix bikes with us? 

Then Philip's mother gave him a stern lecture not to leave the building, and he hung out with us for three hours. I gave Philip a bike to work on and he cleaned the frame, changed the seat, lubricated the chain, and we were going to fix the brakes until I broke them clean off the fork. Womp.
After that, a gentleman came in to Open Shop with a flat tire and Philip fixed that too! I was really impressed with Philip, not only because he could do what you showed him to do on a bike, but also with how quickly he caught to the concepts at hand. He had a knack for figuring out what he needed to do and how to do it... not to say that a fifth grader isn't perfectly capable of it, but he was quicker to catch on than most adults who come our way.
Since that day, word has gotten around and we've found ourselves with 3-4 youth every Wednesday. They create a whole lot of positive chaos in the space, and we're having a blast teaching them mechanics. Allston, send us your children, we will put them to work.



Women's Earn-A-Bike

Guys, CommonWheels has been having a huge winter. Back when we were working out of a storage unit, outdoor Open Shops were our jam and when winter rolled around, we pretty much went into hibernation. Now that we have an indoor space at POP Allston, we've been able to keep the magic happening all winter long. Since moving indoors in October, we've been hosting Open Shop twice a week and we've run three rounds of mechanics classes. Look at us go!

We're also running a winter Women's Earn-A-Bike program in partnership with Charlesview Community Center in Lower Allston. This is the first time CW has been able to offer this kind of program, and we're really proud. In this program, women in the Allston-Brighton area can apply to participate in a 6-session bike mechanics and riding safety course, after which they will keep the bike they work on. We have an amazing group right now who will be completing their program in early April. 

The women have already learned how to fix flats, clean chains, recable and adjust braking and shifting systems, and other things things that will be useful in self-maintaining their bikes for a long time. We've also been able to ride around the neighborhoods of Allston together and learn some rules of the road and safe riding skills. The participants came to us with a range of experience--from comfortable to riding in the streets to just starting to try it out. One woman is learning how to ride, and she's making amazing progress. Her goal is to be able to ride to work so that she doesn't have to rely on the bus system, which often makes her late. Another woman wants to be able to ride with her children, and has been bringing her teenage daughter with her to class every week so they can work on bikes together. The others want to ride for exercise and fun, and possibly commute to work when they are more experienced. 

We're having an awful lot of fun. CW is also really lucky to have an amazing group of volunteers who have come out to help facilitate the program. Our sessions at Charlesview are a really great snapshot of what CW is all about--we have volunteers who have learned mechanics at Open Shops now paying it forward by teaching it to others in the community, and the bike love grows exponentially. 

In short, hibernation in the winter is for other people. Okay, that's one of the lessons here. Mostly, we're really fortunate to be a part of an amazing community and to be able to share our love of biking and all its benefits with everyone in it. 

All the bike love,