Where the Ride Takes Us: Opening a Space, Providing Community
In honor of National Bike Month, we’re spotlighting how bicycles are tools for personal empowerment, social justice and community development with our “Where the Ride Takes Us” web series. Today’s post comes from Susan Lindell, a Recycle-A-Bicycle wrench.
A couple years back, a friend of mine saw me walking down the sidewalk and looked stunned. She stopped me and said “I don’t like to see you without your bike — it’s weird.” How I became the known as the “bike person” I am today is a story of many people in the bicycle community opening up a place for me.
As a kid growing up in small town North Dakota, I was always riding my bike around the neighborhood but as I grew older, I happily became a full time car person. I remained a driver for many years until I moved from Minneapolis to New York City and finally sold my car.
After about a year of living in Brooklyn and commuting by train, a friend gave me an old Fuji 10-speed bicycle. Little did that friend know that they started what would be my new career path. I was hooked on bike riding. It was so fascinating to see all the neighborhoods and hidden places in between my starting and finishing point. Getting the fresh air and exercise wasn’t too bad either.
When that bike broke I decided that I wanted to learn to fix it myself. I’ve always been the “fix-it” type and so learning how to repair my own bike seemed like the natural thing to do. This attitude led me to a Time’s Up! fix your own bike workshop and then to Women’s Volunteer Night at Recycle-A-Bicycle (RAB). The more I learned about bicycles the more I appreciated them. The mystery of how they work slowly unfolded and I was amazed at how simple and efficient they are as a machine. It wasn’t just the mechanics that I loved. I loved the camaraderie of the new community that I was beginning to be a part of. One night while volunteering at Recycle-A-Bicycle, founder and director Karen Overton saw me true a wheel quickly after just one lesson and offered me a starting mechanic position on the spot. I accepted even though I knew I was in over my head. I was determined to not disappoint her blind faith. My first day on the job, I endured the looks of doubt from coworkers as I struggled through my first tune-up.
My determination did not go unnoticed by my fellow mechanics and they were patient enough to answer my endless questions. I watched them closely, soaking up whatever knowledge I could while learning from my own trials and errors.
About a year after being hired, I moved on from my guitar work and committed myself full time to Recycle-A-Bicycle. Today, eight years later, I am the manager of the Brooklyn shop and I still love my job. I have had the pleasure over the years to work with many amazing people. Former head mechanic Miguel Fernandez has inspired many with his journey from a 14 year old intern to being one of the most skilled mechanics in NYC. I have seen youth interns grow into skilled mechanics, avid bikers, and active advocates for the cycling community. I have also seen coworkers, such as Karen and Miguel, leave for other work and return to RAB. I believe this is because we all have a love for Recycle-A-Bicycle and the work that we do there. Fixing bikes may be a small feat in the grand scheme of things, but it is quite simply a great way to help people on a day to day basis.
Thanks to all of these events and all of the inspiring people I have met in this community, I am a believer in the bike. The bike is not just a simple and efficient form of transportation but also a powerful instrument for change.
Learn more about Recycle-A-Bicycle here.