Magic City Bicycle Collective: Empowering Repair

By Victoria Edwards

MCBC: Maintaining the Bike Scene

The rain is pouring on the small clump of bikers entering into Grand Central Park after a 12.5 mile Critical Mass Ride. Dario Gonzalez, one of six co-founders of the Magic City Bicycle Collective (MCBC) is under their repair station tent, talking to a third year college student from North Carolina who made it through the ride with two flats. Gonzalez inflates the wet tires and flips the bike over in one smooth motion.

Dario’s here to help: MCBC is a volunteer collective that teaches people how to fix their bikes. Magic City, now on its third year, has  been setting up bike repair tents at the end of Critical Mass rides. It’s a natural fit.

MCBC’s VP Janelly Prieto said helping out at Critical Mass helps the collective promote bike maintenance and education to a larger community.  (Critical mass is the monthly ride where participants share the roads with motor vehicles).

“It helps us get our name out there and reach people in the community that we wouldn’t reach otherwise. Because Critical Mass has such a big audience, it’s turned into the Critical Mass party. It’s grown the collective and we’ve gained volunteers,” said Prieto.

Volunteers are central to the cooperative’s structure. The group is 100% supporter run, with space donated in-kind from the Corner Bar across the street. Maxwell Kirshner, another one of the six co-founders of the collective, said their goal is to empower community members to mend their own bikes through educational workshops and training.

“We’ve gotten a lot more people OK with working on their own bikes. And trying to (fight the) stigma in the community that if your bike breaks it’s either done for or needs to go to shop and will cost $100 dollars. You are completely capable of fixing your bike. I wanted to instill a confidence in others that it’s not brain surgery,” said Kirshner.

It’s a mindset of sustainability and empowerment – with members of the community learning valuable skills to create their own solutions.

MCBC & Local Bike Stores

Kirshner added that fixing a bike at MCBC is much cheaper than going to a bike store. Community members can buy tools at MCBC for $5 and up, and rent bike stands for $5 an hour. Still,  MCBC doesn’t claim to replace local bike shops. Instead, the collective and the bike stores have a mutually beneficial partnership. People interested in biking go to stores; MCBC keeps them running.

Darren Vinditti, owner of the popular A1 Scoot, Skate & Bike Company store said he’s happy to refer MCBC to customers who can’t afford his services, but might need basic repairs.

“I work with them all the time. I gave them a ton of used parts. I think it’s cool. They don’t sell anything new, so it doesn’t take away business,” said Vinditti.

Learning In The Lot: Inside MCBC

Three days of the week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) the MCBC lot in Overtown becomes a special space where generations collide, bike enthusiasts build, and community magic happens.

“Everyone you meet here is friendly and you learn. If it wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t know how to inflate a tire. (Now) I can build a bike from scratch. I’ve been coming here since it opened,” said 16-year-old Malcolm Coakley, an MCBC regular. He and his grandfather have come out to the lot on a Tuesday evening to buy a bike frame from another volunteer.

“ [MCBC] is  great – he’s happy when he comes here – he works with the guys,” said Coakley’s grandfather, Rodolfo Paez.

The MCBC volunteer mechanic on duty, 18-year-old Marcello Araica, cracked a smile and said that MCBC has been a central meeting space for Coakley, now a young bike guru.

“It’s like his bar,” Araica explained.

The connections and points of contact that MCBC have created for community members are transcending age and cultural barriers. The organization is the culmination of bike advocacy and community service– with its founders pivotal members of Critical Mass, Emerge Miami, another bike advocacy organization, and Rotaract, a nonprofit service organization.

“MCBC … came out of the scene. It was a bunch of guys and girls who said this is something we want – let’s  do it. It grew out of itself, which is very cool,” said Kirshner.

OCT ‘s TAKEAWAY:

  • A Bike friendly city is a smart city that has also been seen as highly profitable on the national level:The national bicycle industry contributes approximately $133 billion annually to the US economy by supporting over 1 million jobs, generating nearly $18 billion in federal, state and local taxes and providing nearly $47 billion for meals, transportation and lodging purchases during bike trips and tours, according to the AARP’s Liveable Communities Report entitled “Economic Benefits of Bicycle Infrastructure Investments”.
  • Anyone and everyone can ride, fix, and maintain a bike. Not only is it a great activity to get out and see Miami, it also is a relaxing and awesome way to have a healthier lifestyle.
  • Opening the street to bikes and pedestrians enables more entrepreneurial ventures to succeed as it increases connectivity and creates community across all sorts of people. Also, people on bikes are more likely to spend money locally compared to those who drive, according to the AARP’s Liveable Communities Report entitled, “Economic Benefits of Bicycle Infrastructure Investments”.
  • For those interested in fixing their bikes: Visit MCBC on Tuesdays & Thursday from 6:00 pm-9:00 pm, or on Saturday from  2 pm-6 pm; the collective is located on 1100 North Miami Avenue.