August 13, 2010

We be blazin' on bikes all over town

Make sure to pick up an issue of this week’s Nashville Scene– featuring the Halcyon Bike Workshop in the cover article. The article highlights eleven local movers’n’shakers whose innovative ideas and programs are changing Nashville for the better.

From the Scene:

What if there was a program that reduced traffic, instilled confidence and leadership in at-risk kids and moved our city — even if slightly — toward a more sustainable future? Around Nashville, scores of young people rely so heavily on adults to drive them from place to place that they don’t really know any other way to get around. And they end up missing a lot as a result — exercise, for one, but also the opportunity to become more independent, and to really experience their surroundings, rather than just cruising past them. Enter the Halcyon Bike Workshop, a partnership between Oasis Center, the nonprofit community center in Watkins Park, and Halcyon Bike Shop in 12South. Together, they put broken bikes in the hands of underprivileged kids and get them to fixing.

But the workshop doesn’t just teach kids how to build and repair the bicycles — it asks them to pass their knowledge along to others in their community and sends them home with their own bike once they’ve completed the program.

Asked how he got the idea for the workshop, Daniel Furbish of Oasis Center says, “I was simply a bicycle enthusiast who happened to work with youth. … I took a group of my middle school students to Shelby Park, and half of them, although they all live within a two-mile radius, had never been there. They didn’t even know it existed.” So he started researching bike co-ops, then found out there was a new bike shop in town looking to partner with a local nonprofit. The timing was perfect.

“Yeah, it was pretty serendipitous,” says Elise Tyler, co-owner of Halcyon, whose mechanics — including crankhead and local musician Seth Murray, who designed the first course syllabus — donate their time. The workshop was modeled after similar programs in Austin and Portland, with the added twist of open workshop hours, when students can come in and work on their own. The bikes themselves are donated, and the workshop is funded through a grant. Just a year and two months after starting, it’s already paying dividends.

“We have run into workshop graduates on several occasions who have told us that they helped fix their little sister’s flat tire, or tightened a friend’s stem when it got loose,” Furbish says. “What makes this special is that their average age is 13, and they are taking on the role of a teacher/mentor.”

Furbish says they’re looking to start a new mobile workshop that will travel to different community centers and libraries throughout the week, and beyond that, Tyler says, to grow it for all age groups. In the meantime, Nashville’s youth are finding a new way to get around town.

“We hand them a Nashville bike map and say, ‘Here’s how to get from your house to Shelby Park,’ ” says Furbish. ” ‘Make sure you wear your helmet.’ “

—Steve Haruch

Read the full article, and don’t forget to vote in the BEST OF NASHVILLE 2010 reader’s poll! Best Bicycle Shop is listed under ‘Goods and Services,’ you have to vote in 20 categories for your vote to count! Plus, you can vote everyday if you like ^_^

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