Keeping a Simple Bike Project Simple

A couple months ago I shared this small vision of making sure every kid in my neighborhood that wanted a bike and a lock could have one. I really appreciated the overwhelming support and realized I hadn’t updated everyone on the progress. It’s been a fun ride.

The Northside Bike ProjectSeptember

At the beginning of September, Eli (my bike partner-in-crime) and I went to a small grassroots conference called BikeBike. It’s a very cool eclectic bunch of folks from all over the country who come together to talk about running community bike shops. We had a couple of guys from Nebraska sleep in a tent in our backyard. At the conference we learned a bit and hooked up with a guy named Jason from Sibley Bike Depot. Jason was excited about what we were doing and encouraged us along and promised the support of Sibley. A week or so later we check out Sibley to see what a real professional community bike shop looks like, it’s sweet. Sibley has a board meeting and agrees to support us by allowing us to order tools and supplies through their wholesale account. We put in a $550 order (from a neighborhood block grant) for locks, tires, tubes, patches, and more. At the end of the month we host a small “bike safety” gathering to connect with a few neighborhood kids and give away some bike locks (along with an elaborate system to help track whose lock and bike each is).


Sibley offers to give us some bikes. I was thinking maybe 10, but they say they’ve got plenty more. We take two pick-up trucks and put 67 bikes in the back! The bikes fill up half our basement.

A week later, Eli is given a big trailer from another bike group that’s disbanded. The trailer used to be for a traveling bike circus (tall bikes, strong man, etc). It has a wild mural painted on it, the side opens up to a stage and it’s seven feet tall. Not sure exactly what we’ll do with it yet, but it’s sweet. And it’s parked in my backyard.

We buy a few more tools too and start setting up shop at the end of the month.


It’s just me and Eli, but we’ve had our first two ‘open shop’ times where we mostly hung bikes up, set up a work bench and organized tools, but we’ve started messing with a couple bikes. We also scored a couch for the downstairs and as soon as I get the radio working we’ll be ready to make the shop public.

The plan is to have open shop hours every other week for other volunteers to come and help fix up bikes. Come spring time we’ll potentially have over 50 bikes to give out to neighborhood kids. I’m still planning on keeping things very low-key on my end, just giving bikes to kids who I know, but we’ve talked about partnering with other neighborhood groups to give out bikes through their programs.

Here are some photos:

And to finish things off, if your on facebook, consider becoming a Fan of the project there as I’ll be posting more regular updates and pictures as things progress.

Update: Open Letter to Wheaton Selection Committee

Last week I posted about an open letter we were gathering signatures for regarding Wheaton’s hiring of it’s next college president. This past Sunday, I delivered (via email) an open letter signed by 350 Wheaton alumni. So far I’ve received a brief email acknowledging they’ve received the letter:

Mr. Fine — thank you for sending this official listing to the Presidential Selection Committee with the information on the “signers” of the open letter.  The information has been forwarded to the Presidential Selection Committee for their review.
We appreciate your interest and especially your continued prayers for this very important process.
Presidential Selection Committee
Wheaton College
In the mean time, Christianity Today decided to cover the story on one of their blogs. Here’s a snippet,

Mimi Barnard, CCCU’s vice president for professional development and research, provided Her.meneutics more recent statistics. As of fall 2008, the gender ratio among all senior administrators at CCCU schools was 86 percent male, 14 percent female, compared with a 55/45 percent ratio among all U.S. colleges and universities.

Further, 5 percent of CCCU schools are now led by women…
The Wheaton Record (the school’s print paper) will also be covering the story this Friday. I’ll try and post that article here as well. What I’ve really enjoyed seeing is the conversation this has created and more specifically some of the great thoughts I’ve heard from others. Here is one comment from the blog post above that I found interesting:

The sad fallacy of this article is that the school must trade off excellence in favor of diversity. That’s just nonsense. Even for a position as prestigious as president of Wheaton College, there will be more than a few candidates who are fully qualified for the position. Each will bring a couple of unique “extras” to the table. One’s area of scholarship might be a more currently “hot” topic. One might have exceptional skills in fundraising at a time when that is paramount. One might have exceptional interpersonal skills at a time when faculty reorganization is paramount. One might bring gender or ethnic diversity at a time when that has been lacking.

These things should be considered as bonus points in favor of one candidate or another and one bonus point may be more important one year than another. Given the current abysmal diversity statistics, it seems reasonable that on this go-round, seing gender or ethnic diversity (among candidates who are ALL fully qualified) as a more important bonus does not seem to be any more immoral or unfair than favoring an exceptional fundraiser at another time.

The view that diversity should NEVER be considered is to completely devalue the different voices that non-white-male people bring to any enterprise. Of course white men can teach diversity, but there is a qualitative difference for the student body when the faculty actually reflect what is taught about the worth of ALL of God’s children.

The letter is still open for signing. Regardless of what happens with the presidential selection, this letter and signers will stand as an accountability check on the process and a statement of our collective commitments and values.