Volunteer program offers lessons in bike repair to local women

The Bike Project of Urbana–Champaign hosted its first Women’s Night on Tuesday. This volunteer program offers repairs, lessons in bike repair and bike safety tools.

“Women’s Night went quite well,” said Joel Gillespie, project volunteer. “It was a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere for repair and questions. It started a little slowly, but we had most of our shop stands occupied from 7 p.m. onward.”

The Bike Project has operated since 2006 and has 400 members, said Emma Barnes, volunteer coordinator for The Bike Project.

The project accepts donations of used bikes and bike parts to restore, repairs bikes and sells parts.

“We have about 15 volunteer staffers who help out on a regular basis with open hours and other tasks,” Gillespie said.

The project is stocked with bikes, tires, baskets, handlebars, locks, bike lights and helmets, Barnes said.

“A lot (of the parts) are from the campus, just random people,” Barnes said. “Also we have distributors who will donate too.”

Visiting The Bike Project is free, but visitors have to purchase any replacement parts they need. Visitors do the repairs themselves with guidance from volunteers, Barnes said.

“All of my friends last year used to go there and fix up their bikes and build bikes,” said Asher Weisberg, senior in LAS.

There are several different ways to become a member, Barnes said.

Potential members can purchase a membership, build a bike, or volunteer for eight hours at the project.

“We have regular volunteers who will staff open hours, and those are the ones who are pretty skilled at bicycle mechanics. (They) can help other people who come in who don’t know as much or would want to learn,” Barnes said.

The Women’s Night will be held on the first Tuesday of every month from 6 to 9 p.m. and is open to everyone, although it is geared toward women and transgendered people.

“A lot of the people who come in are male,” Barnes said. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

She said the project is hoping to expand the population interested in learning about bikes.

“It’s a good way to learn, whether or not you’re a member,” Barnes said.