The Community Spoke!: An Open Shop and a Safe Space

Boston’s bike culture is expanding in all directions, and one of the services other cities around the country have that hasn’t made it to Boston just yet is the “Bike Kitchen.” A Bike Kitchen is an open bike workshop that anyone can come in and use or rent to fix up their ride. The Community Spoke is one of a small handful of projects that are endeavoring to fill that gap.

The welcoming sign of the Community Spoke! bike community, a welcoming and all-inclusive safe space for cyclists.

“We really stress that the Community Spoke is meant to be a safer space,” said a volunteer who preferred not to give a full name. “We let everyone know to be respectful of others while they’re in the shop.”

One way Community Spoke promotes a “safe space” is by prohibiting oppressive language or behavior toward anyone’s personal identity. Another is by holding an exclusive Women and Trans Night, every third Thursday, along with occasional volunteer nights to introduce fresh faces to the group’s mission and beliefs.

Along with these events, the Community Spoke provides an open shop for all comers every Tuesday evening. Aside from the space and access to tools, volunteers also provide informal bike repair education. There’s also the possibility of working on an earn-a-bike program, where cyclists build their own bikes from the frame up. These resources advance the mission of the Community Spoke, which is to encourage cycling as a means of personal freedom.

“We try to keep under-privileged people on their bikes with affordable transportation and try to promote people being self-supporting and empowered that way,” said Community Spoke volunteer, Dustin Tompkins.

Tompkins and the rest of the Community Spoke crew welcome other volunteers to help out, so that someday the shop can grow into its full potential, and an expansion from one evening a week.

“Some people need a bike right away but can only work on it three hours a week and that’s not enough time to get that bike rolling,” he said. “If we could offer more hours, people would work on their bikes.”

Other ambitions include handing the reins over to local youth to use the space creatively and as a means of maintaining bikes, as well as providing training courses and maybe branching out into advocacy work.

But for now, the Community Spoke continues to serve Jamaica Plain at neighborhood events, such as Wake up the Earth and Bikes Not BombsGreen Roots Festival.

Says Tompkins: “We’re here to help people get on their bikes and keep moving in a safe and easy ways.”

The Community Spoke! has open shop every Tuesday from 6-9 at 10 Boylston Place in Jamaica Plain. They also host a mobile open shop in Central Square the first Sunday of the Month, from 3-6 and a Ladies’ and Trans Night every third Monday from 7-10.

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