At a free cycling festival at Antioch High School on Oct. 23, the Bay Area BikeMobile rolled onto campus, stuffed with spare parts such as chains, tires, brake cables, pads and calipers, seats and seat posts and shifter housings. As bike mechanics hopped out to set up and put their skills to use, students and community members lined up to get their bikes on the fix-it list.
Ninth-grader Drew Odell brought his FBC bike in for a tune-up and was all smiles at the result. Steven Morris, 30, one of the BikeMobile techs, helped Drew get his tires pumped up and tightened the bike’s headset. Drew is into BMX, or bicycle motocross—off-road stunt riding. Steven also helped Marc Shelby, a sophomore, with his Stolen BMX bike (Stolen is a brand), installing new tires and grips.
BikeMobile technicians help youths repair their own bikes so they can be self-reliant, showing them how to replace a chain, pump up their tires or tighten bike fittings. “I was always that kid in the bike shop asking for help to fix my bike,” Steven said. “Now I can do the same for other people.”
Tommy Bensko, program director and founder of Bay Area BikeMobile, said since starting the service earlier this year BikeMobile technicians have repaired 2,000 bikes. “This is the age of climate change,” he said. “We need to transform Antioch into a safe riding environment.”
Kerri Heusler with Street Smarts Diablo was on hand to give away free bike helmets and bike lights to students. More than 70 helmets were distributed during the two-hour after-school event. The organization donated five bicycles to Antioch Bike Club (ABC), festival hosts. ABC was formed earlier this year and now has 12 donated bikes for students to check out so they can cycle to and from school.
Jim Frazier, District 11 Assemblymember, stopped by the festival to offer support. “I’m a biker too,” he told the crowd. “We help our environment by staying on our bikes.”
Dr. Donald Gill, superintendent of Antioch Unified School District, discussed the importance of observing safety rules and wearing helmets. He said he still has an old bicycle that looks like a bakery bike in old-time Paris.
Following event announcements, Pete Brandt, a professional flatland BMX rider, entertained the crowd by demonstrating some of the tricks he’s developed over the years. He rode his bike backwards in circles, twirled while sitting and standing on his handlebars, and wowed watchers when he jumped over a line of five volunteer high-schoolers.
Mechanics were able to repair about 30 bikes, Tommy said, and because so many people signed up for repairs that they couldn’t help everyone, the BikeMobile will return to Antioch High School on Nov. 18.
The Bay Area BikeMobile is the second BikeMobile program. It launched in March 2014 with the help of a $480,000 grant from the Spare the Air Youth program, funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in partnership with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The free resource focuses on families from low-income communities that often don’t have access to professional bike repair. The original BikeMobile launched in 2012 in Alameda County with the help of a $500,000 grant from MTC. During the program’s first two years, crews repaired an estimated 5,350 bikes.
— Georgia Lambert