As I mentioned in my last post, there were a few things I needed to do before I could get started building my bike:
Bike Well Class: This is a free class offered every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at Free Cycles. It takes about an hour and you learn about bike safety, bike laws in Missoula, areas to be mindful of around town and a little bit of information about MIST (Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation). A and I took it together and we were both surprised to learn that it’s actually okay to bike in the middle of the lane when there’s no bike lane. Yes, it’s true, that annoying habit of cyclists is completely legit and it’s actually safer. By riding in the middle of the lane, it encourages motorists to move over into the other lane to pass, rather than trying to creep by the cyclist by veering slightly out into the other lane and potentially hitting the cyclist, or cutting off another car, etc. Cyclists can even ride two across in a lane in this fashion. We also learned that roundabouts are one of the safest types of intersections, which I find shocking considering most people traversing the Toole roundabout seem to have no idea what they’re doing.
4h of Volunteering: I admit I was a little intimidated by this. I wasn’t really sure how I could possibly be helpful since I have zero mechanical knowledge. But, the folks at Free Cycles are pretty used to people like me. I spent my first two hours working on a campaign they were running at the time to help raise money to buy the property and building that they are currently located on. I made a few calls, wrote a few letters, hit up a couple of bike-loving friends to donate a few bucks. They did manage to meet their goal, and while most of that came from philanthropists, I like to think I helped in some small way.
I spent my last two hours doing odd jobs around the shop – sweeping, picking up trash, cleaning up after an event, sorting bike parts. It’s about as exciting as it sounds, but it had its Zen moments. It also helped me learn my way around the shop a little and figure out where to find some things and where other things went. I think this type of volunteering is pretty typical – it’s the easiest and simplest way to be involved and it always needs to be done. That being said, I think the sky is the limit. They regularly hold events at the shop and being involved with set-up/clean-up, or even organization, are possible ways to contribute. And then, obviously, people with more mechanical/bike knowledge, can triage bikes and figure out which ones are repairable and which ones are good for spare parts and break them down as needed.