The community and cooperative bike shop movement reared its very cute head during the weekend of August 10-12 for the 4th Annual Bike!Bike! Conference. Bike!Bike! started in New Orleans, and has since traveled to Tucson and Milwaukee. In 2007 it was hosted in Pittsburgh by the Free Ride! bicycle cooperative. The goal of the conference was to gather community and recycled bike shops from around the world to learn, share, and network, helping to make our movement stronger and more organized. According to The Bicycle Collective Network, “Collectively we can improve a bigger wheel as opposed to re-inventing smaller ones.” Over 250 people from more than 70 organizations converged on the Steel City to talk about rusty bikes as a means to social change.
Folks from San Francisco, Tucson, and Chicago started arriving at the beginning of the week to help set up for the conference. By Thursday there were hundreds, many of whom helped build bikes and spruce up the Free Ride! shop for the rest of the weekend. A bunch showed up by bicycle, riding from Philly, DC, Chicago, and Fort Collins, CO. At the end of the day, the out-of-towners got to experience a local cycling hangout, Thursday Night at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern for $1 beers and pierogies.
The conference started as planned, bright and early on Friday morning. The space, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, filled up quickly. The first day of the conference was dubbed “Bike Shop 101,” and was used as a way to help the newer and up and coming shops learn some of the basics of running and organizing a collective recycled bike project. Workshops included such titles as Hey you got pegs?, Staying Sane with Kids in the Shop, and Legal Shiznit It’s Really Better if You Deal With. Friday night we took the masses to Pittsburgh’s famous hills on bike ride that showed off of our myriad of bridges. We ended under the Bloomfield Bridge where we relaxed the night away under the lights of a projector (which took five extension cords to power from a friend’s house) and showed a bunch of short bike movies from across the continent as well as the feature documentary, The Six Day Bicycle Races.
Saturday was the largest day of BikeBike, when it really kicked into gear. The classrooms were over capacity for many of the workshops. Topics on Saturday included Conflict Resolution, Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality in the Biking Community, Shufflin’ that Loot-Finances and other Monstrosities, as well as many more.
Saturday Evening was packed with activities. Pittsburgh Alleycats LINK organized a brutal race for folks called Ride YR BikeBike. Free Ride! also organized another tour of the city, highlighting some of the trails that have been built over the past few years. Both the race and the ride ended at the shop for a SPANDEXXX Party where we were enlivened by the sounds of locals Flotilla Way and Kill the Unicorn. Jazzercize Troop Radical Pittsburgh—a dance troop obsessed with ’80s workout videos—got the dance party started and DJ’s Pete Spynda, Chickpea, and the Baglady kept it going until 4 am.
A bit groggy from the festivities, we got going at 9 am on Sunday for another day of workshops. Carlos Marroquin of Maya Pedal in Guatemala was on hand to demonstrate how his organization takes bikes shipped from the U.S., and turns them into pedal powered machinery like grain mills, water pumps, tile makers and blenders. Dave Peckham of the Village Bicycle Project in Ghana gave a presentation on Bike Repair in the African Bush, highlighting some of the DIY techniques people use to repair bikes when resources are next to nothing. Imagine stitching several 20-inch tubes together to make a 26-inch tube and you’ll get the gist. Another discussion that took place was to improve and expand upon the Bicycle Collective Network, an online resource for shops to share knowledge and expand the movement.
The final session on Sunday was in the graffiti strewn ruins of a building where we plotted how to keep the momentum, and more importantly who will take on the task of BikeBike ’08. San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Chicago all volunteered, but in the end the Bay Area won because it was decided that it’s time for the conference to visit the West Coast. We officially ended BikeBike ’07 with a midnight ride up to Pittsburgh’s Observatory Hill to partake in three of nature’s best inventions, a meteor shower, beer and rest. –Erok Boerer
• Click here for Brad’s portraits from the Bike!Bike! SpandeXXX party.
• Click here for Erok’s photos from the Bike!Bike! conference.
• Click here for Jeff’s photos from the Ride YR Bike Bike alleycat.
• If you were at BikeBike ’07, feel free to leave stories of your experience in Pittsburgh below.