Fixing bicycles is about Smithies learning a set of life skills
that will continue to empower them for decades to follow. So many
women have never been given a wrench, or been encouraged to fix
something themselves. The resources at Bike Kitchen provide an
extraordinary opportunity to affirm women’s abilities in the
traditionally male field. If given the institutional support Bike
Kitchen could become a hub of powerful connections across intellectual and practical disciplines.
Smith College Bike Kitchen is a student organization that was established in 2005. The organization maintains a fleet of 45 bicycles that are rented out to students each semester and during the summer for an affordable sliding scale price. The Kitchen also hosts “Open Hours” twice a week for members of the Smith community to drop in and receive free instructions on how to repair their own bikes. Bike Kitchen has grown significantly since its start, indicating a strong need for its services on campus.
Currently, the students committed to keeping the doors to Bike Kitchen open are putting an unsustainable amount of work into the organization in order to meet high demand. Members share the large responsibility of re-servicing the organization’s 45 bikes after each rental period (three times a year), staffing the space, and teaching community members four to five hours per week, as well as teaching new members of the organization the basic mechanics skills they need to be a part of the collective.
Unfortunately, due to the high demand for Bike Kitchen’s services, the pressure of completing walk- in maintenance tasks consistently overshadows the teaching process. Open Hours are consistently understaffed, often with one or two members working simultaneously with 6-8 different advanced bike projects.
This hectic pressure creates a stressful and unproductive experience both for community members and for Bike Kitchen volunteers. During the busiest times, working at Bike Kitchen can actually be a dis-empowering experience for members who desire the skills and time to become teachers and mechanics but have trouble succeeding due to limited time and resources. Potential members come with enthusiasm and energy to learn, but have no educational structure to join in to, so they stop coming.
As an organization dedicated to empowering women, having the resources to teach maintenance skills to our core members as well as community members who seek our assistance is vitally important to our mission as a Smith College organization. The resources at Bike Kitchen provide an extraordinary opportunity to affirm women’s abilities in the traditionally male dominated skill set of mechanics. Given the right support, the Bike Kitchen could provide women with practical educational opportunities that have not existed before at women’s colleges. The plan to revitalize Bike Kitchen will help us realize our vision of re-imagining the liberal arts for the 21st century. Funding Smith Bike Kitchen is funding Women for an ecologically sustainable and independent world.
Potential areas for growth, expansion and innovation:
- Offer ongoing Mechanics Workshop Series for students
- Sort through rental fleet and assess potential for repair
- Develop the Work Exchange Program
- Offer Bike Safety Lessons and Bike Riding Lessons
- Work with students to create Work Study Program
- Create a Bike Riding and Mechanics Pre-Orientation Program
- Outreach to faculty/staff
- Partnership with local middle/high school
- Summer/Winter Bike Storage
Bike Kitchen proposes a one year pilot program for a paid Bike Kitchen Staff to address the above "Potential areas for growth, expansion, and innovation". Your support of this plan supports Smith's commitment to empowering women.