– By Shirley Roberts –
‘Earn a bike by fixing it’ at The Corner @240 in partnership with Gateway Bicycle Hub.
June 3rd, 2021 marks World Bicycle Day. It all started when American professor, Leszek Sibilski began a grassroots campaign with his sociology class to promote a United Nations resolution that would advocate for a day to celebrate the humble bicycle all over the world. His project became a massive movement backed by Sustainable Mobility for All – an advocacy platform for international cooperation on transport and mobility issues – and eventually resulted in a dedicated day set by the United Nations to promote cycling in 2018.
Many of us can remember the thrill of learning how to ride a bike for the first time. It is probably one of the first forms of physical exercise that we experienced. However, not only is cycling fun and good exercise, it also benefits our mental health and is good for the economy and the environment. World Bicycle Day acknowledges this and so does The Corner. In 2019, The Hub @240 established the first ever bicycle repair clinic in St. James Town. In an interview, staff members Aravind Joseph and Alaa Mohamed answered questions about this exciting program.
Resident volunteer Sritharan training a participant.
How the bicycle program got started
Aravind described how bicycle repairs grew separately out of The Hub @240’s electronics and appliance repair program. In the early days, a partnership with Charlie’s Free Wheels for training and repairs helped to kick–start the project.
Partnerships with Repair Café Toronto and 10 Gateway Hub in the Flemingdon community have been key sources of advice and support. They provided expertise regarding the set-up of program operational systems, training of volunteer fixers, repairing bikes, use of tools and how to repurpose old bikes to keep them on the road.
There is something special about this clinic as it draws community residents to want to be a part of it. Alaa emphasized how community volunteers such as Sritharan Sinnathurai and Denver Jermyn have been instrumental in building the bicycle clinic into the success that it is today. Nine hundred bikes were repaired during the summer of 2020 and the support of volunteers and staff member Darrell Jenya has been crucial to this success. Sritharan logged countless volunteer hours providing leadership to train bike fixers, repurpose bikes and to do repairs. Denver would come all the way from Scarborough to lend his skills and Darrell started out by attending a workshop and now leads the program.
Darrel (right) leading a bike repair workshop at The Corner @240.
The objectives of the program
Alaa and Aravind described how the bike clinic is a not-for-profit resource that provides free access to parts and repairs in St. James Town. Many people depend on their bikes to commute to work or as part of their employment in the delivery economy such as couriers. During the pandemic, bikes have been an essential means of transportation. They have also been essential for health. The program itself creates important social connections through a shared interest and passion for cycling.
How The Hub @240 supports the community to promote a green economy
Aravind emphasized that this is a sustainable mode of transportation. In a hi-rise community like St. James Town where there is limited space for cars, bikes are a better fit. Moreover, diverting materials from old bikes away from landfills in order to repurpose them promotes recycling and reduction of waste.