Bike repairs: Life lessons with a wrench


The late 19th century social reformer Frances Willard viewed the mastery of the bicycle as a way to gain the mastery of life. That spirit still resonates today, and teenagers in Boston are spreading it in neighborhoods far from a repair shop. In Chain Reaction, a new initiative of the group Bikes Not Bombs, an after-school mobile repair shop staffed by teens will rotate through Roxbury, Dorchester, South Boston, Charlestown, and Chelsea in coming months. The goal is not just to fix bikes, but also to educate. “The thing that’s shocking to me is how many kids or parents bring bikes in, and they think their bike is broken,” said Stephane Alexandre, a junior at Boston Latin Academy. She first learned to do bike repairs as a ninth-grader in another Bikes Not Bombs program. “So many times, it’s air in the tires or greasing the chain, and we hand the bike back and people say, ‘Oh, that’s it?’ ”

Alexandre’s wrench-wielding colleagues are Abdul Hussein of New Mission High, Corrina Roche-Cross of Brookline High, and Boston Latin’s Evan Hanlon and Will Gifford. Assisting on a busy school-vacation day at the Orchard Gardens Boys and Girls Club was youth instructor Jose Baez of English High, as children and parents streamed in for repairs or to buy low-cost bikes rehabilitated by the teens. The teens conceived of the program after noting the paucity of bike shops in low-income communities. “Nothing makes me happier,” said Alexandre, of Mattapan, “than seeing a kid who thinks his bike is totally dead learn to fix it.”

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