[TheThinkTank] the virus and community bike shops, essential services thought

Cyclista Nicholas cyclista at inventati.org
Thu Mar 26 15:49:08 PDT 2020

I've been worried about our workstation becoming a contamination depot, 
of course. All public surfaces, even if they are decontaminated 
regularly, will be to some extent.

However, there is a significant percentage of our target demographic 
that relies on us for daily survival, and mainly I refer to the 
homeless. These are people who, if they didn't have our workstation, 
would just be doing some other sketchy thing contamination-wise to stay 

The other sectors of our demographic don't need this kind of help, and 
probably have their own air pumps and remedial tools at home. I'm at the 
shop alone several times a week, and have a good idea who uses the 
station and when. Honestly, I don't think it's really being used except 
by a handful of solitary people, and they're mostly using the air pump.

As for other public-facing activities, we're open for retail, and 
customers are instructed not to touch anything except bikes that are 
being testridden. This is another area that we don't face significant 
traffic, we get possibly one or two customers per day at most in these 

As for decontaminating bikes, I wipe down the seat, controls, grips, and 
top tube after each test ride, and when doing intake on a customer bike.

Speaking of customer bikes, we are not a shop that does repair for 
people, we only teach people how to do repairs themselves. However, 
recently we got a typical misguided question via Facebook about how much 
we charged for a given repair, and it occurred to me that since we 
weren't allowing people to repair the bikes themselves, and had a 
decrease in things to do as a result of closing open shop, we might as 
well accept bikes for repair during this period. This is not something 
we advertise anywhere other than in direct response to a spontaneous 
request, and we make it clear to each customer that this is not a 
regular thing. We've had three customers of this type thus far. I feel 
that this transactional dynamic is one that's very easy create as a 
controlled process, and decontaminating bikes under this circumstance is 
trivial. Just another technical thing to do to a bike among the usual 
array of procedures.

As for classification as an essential service, automobile repair garages 
are typically classified as essential services. We are a transportation 
provider and as assist to people who use their bikes to buy groceries 
and keep medical appointments. Bicycles are not a luxury and they are 
not primarily a recreational toy, they are a fundamental life utility 
and in some cases people rely on them to survive.

I queried Claire from Vélorution Paris deliberately here to provide an 
example to the list of recognition that bicycles are an essential 
service - the city of Paris recognizes this. As of a few days ago, New 
York City does now as well.

Of course, this means that if we *are* an essential service, this makes 
it even more imperative that we create and adhere to strict protocols to 
protect the community we serve even as we struggle to empower them.

Stay strong, healthy and hopeful cyclistas!

~cyclista Nicholas

On 2020-03-26 22:09, Bob Giordano wrote:
> Hi Carlyn,
> at Free Cycles Missoula we've closed completely,
> not even doing emergency bikes/repairs/drop offs,
> anything. we'll have a good crop of sale bikes when
> we reopen, and a clean, organized shop.
> Not doing outside public repair stands for the
> reasons you've mentioned.
> We aim to reopen june 1st- could be earlier or
> later- we just wanted a date in our staff of 4's
> head.
> Our staff of 4 are working safely and responsibly
> together, altho we've taken zones. We even have
> 4 separate doors, 3 separate bathrooms, each have
> a tool kit, etc. We're also mentally and physically
> prepared to stay away from the shop completely, if
> needed, which it looks more and more like.
> Our staff have been making these nimble and quick
> decisions, keeping our small board up to date as
> needed, and they are supportive of what we need to do.
> As we clean up around here, we're not doing 'free piles'
> outside (too much public handling of stuff). We're staging
> trash, thrift store, recycling piles.  However we've had
> a couple trusted folks take scrap steel away.
> We plan to reopen stronger than ever, and ultimately
> we feel that is best for us and the community. Missoula
> has been very supportive and understanding.
> 2 of us are also focusing on grants, all 4 of us are
> taking time to think deeply, to share writings, and
> slow down.
> Bob Giordano, Free Cycles Missoula
> Quoting Carlyn Arteaga <carlyn.arteaga at bicas.org>:
>> I appreciate you sharing all your thoughts and ideas.
>> At BICAS in Tucson we had to dismantle our outdoor fix a flat station.
>> Staff working alone inside the shop witnessed clumps of people 
>> congregating
>> very close to each other and at least one individual who was there for 
>> 3
>> hours coughing on everything. As much was we wanted to help people 
>> out, we
>> couldn't justify the germ spreading station we had created.
>> We have approved a skeleton plan for opening for limited repair 
>> services in
>> a couple weeks. How are others handling this? How do you do intakes? 
>> By
>> appointment only or do you take walk ins?  How are you protecting your
>> people and the public? How are you sanitizing bikes you work on? And 
>> in
>> what ways do you see your services as an "essential service," keeping 
>> in
>> mind that any interfacing with the public right now involves some 
>> amount of
>> risk, for which the ultimate potential consequence is death? Or if you 
>> have
>> decided to remain closed, how did you arrive at that decision, knowing 
>> that
>> there are people who need bike help and are not going to be able to 
>> access
>> it?
>> I know these are the Big Questions (esp the last couple) we're all
>> grappling with right now, I just wanted to have some frank 
>> conversations
>> about why doing what we're doing right now so we can all chew it over.
>> Please be kind with one another as we respond. None of us has the 
>> playbook
>> for this crisis or truly even enough data yet to know which decisions 
>> will
>> end of being the right ones in the end.
>> Thank you all in advance,
>> ~Carlyn
>> --
>> *Carlyn Arteaga*
>> *pronouns: they/them/theirs*
>> Youth Program Coordinator
>> *BICAS*
>> 2001 N. 7th Ave. | Tucson, AZ 85701 | Shop: 520-628-7950
>> carlyn.arteaga at bicas.org | www.bicas.org | Facebook
>> <http://www.facebook.com/bicascollective/> | Instagram
>> <http://www.instagram.com/bicastucson/>
>> *Through advocacy and bicycle salvage, our mission is to participate 
>> in
>> affordable bicycle transportation, education, and creative recycling 
>> with
>> our greater Tucson community.*
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