Pedalling toward empowerment

Community bike labs offer safer spaces to practice repair skills

Women, queer and non-binary people can find empowerment and self-sufficiency through learning and practising bicycle mechanics. Local community bike labs have identified the need for programs that create safer spaces for groups of people who may feel intimidated or uncomfortable in what is typically a crowded, hectic, masculine-dominated environment.  

Three programs in Winnipeg are working to remove cultural barriers that often prevent people from learning bike mechanics. 

The Bike Dump runs Women and Queer Night on Mondays. The program is meant to encourage community and leadership for ladies and queer folk who are not used to taking on such roles. 

The UWSA Bike Lab runs a similar program, called Fab Lab. The newest of these programs - Mellow Vélo, a program headed by The WRENCH - starts on March 12. 

“Mellow Vélo is for people who feel marginalized, intimidated and/or unsafe in macho, male-dominated spaces.  This can include women, trans*, non-binary and two-spirit people.  We believe bicycles are inextricably linked with empowerment and freedom and that gaining knowledge of bicycle repair can have an immensely positive impact on one’s life and sense of self,” Sarah Thiessen, volunteer coordinator and youth program instructor, says.

With spring fast approaching and riding weather nearly upon us, if you have been thinking about trying bike mechanics but have been uncomfortable about the male-oriented, crowded, hectic atmosphere, perhaps it is time to try one of the three more accessible, non-judgmental bike programs out there.

Volunteer Jazmine Moffett (left) helps someone who dropped in at the Bike Dump.

The WRENCH is located in the basement of the Animal Services building off Logan Avenue. Their new program, Mellow Vélo, was recently made possibly through a grant from the Winnipeg Foundation.

Volunteer coordinator Sarah Thiessen (left) and instructor Janis Maudlin (right) at The WRENCH. Maudlin has been volunteering with community bike programs (first the Bike Dump, now The WRENCH) for about seven years and is excited for the open shop-styled program, which is something The WRENCH has been wanting to start for a long time.

Welcome to Women and Queer Night at the Bike Dump, which is located at 631 Main St. behind the Red Road Lodge. 

Volunteer Chelsea Enslow works on her brakes at the Bike Dump. Enslow finds it empowering to be part of a community and to share a space with people who may have similar life experiences. She says that regular hours at the Bike Dump can be overwhelming, because they are so busy and hectic. 

A bicycle in progress and wall of tools at the Bike Dump.

Volunteers Chelsea Enslow (left) and Jazmine Moffett (right) work on projects at the Bike Dump. To Moffett, a regular volunteer for the last one-and-a-half years, the program helps to motivate people who are not normally encouraged in society to do mechanics or to play in a way that is mechanical. Moffett feels that while learning as an adult can be intimidating, it is also empowering to learn how to work on bicycles.

The WRENCH stands for Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub, and one of their goals is to make cycling more accessible to everyone.

An encouraging sign at the Bike Dump. One of the aims of programs like their Women and Queer Night
is to build safer spaces for all participants. 

The Bike Dump

Women and queer-identifying only
631 Main St.
(Back of the Red Road Lodge)
Monday 6 to 9 p.m.
(Closed on holidays/long weekends)
bike-dump.ca

UWSA Bike Lab

Fab Lab
515 Portage Ave.
Tuesday 12 to 4 p.m.
FAB Lab is dedicated open shop hours for women, trans and non-binary people.
theuwsa.ca/uwsa-bike-lab/

The WRENCH

Mellow Vélo
1057 Logan Ave.
Starting March 12
Sundays 2 to 5 p.m.
For women, trans* and femme people
thewrench.ca

Published in Volume 71, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 9, 2017)

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