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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jumped Off, This Rope's Gone.

It’s Thursday, and the Free Wheel bicycle repair shop is open for business. But the Free Wheel is neither a standard bicycle repair shop nor a business at all. The only indicators of the Free Wheel are a hand-drawn sign situated in the middle of UH Manoa’s Sustainability Courtyard, a workstand, and two college students sitting on a bench eagerly waiting to help fellow cyclists.

Nathan Domier and Zeb Brown operate the Free Wheel, a weekly outreach of Cycle Manoa. Since the Free Wheel’s reemergence a few months ago, the two friends have been helping numerous students fix minor repairs and answer their bicycle maintenance inquiries. For more complex repairs, the pair refers cyclists to their parent program.

Cycle Manoa has been teaching people to fix bicycles for free since 2008. A student-run volunteer organization, Cycle Manoa believes in empowering users with the ability to mend their own bicycles. The group also reaches out to partner organizations - such as KVIBE - and advocates for safer pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

Three years ago, Nathan moved to Hawaii for school. Desperately needing a bicycle for transport, his roommate suggested he visit Cycle Manoa. These days, Nathan is the coordinator of Cycle Manoa and has been integral in the establishment of conveniently located public bicycle floor pumps throughout the UH Manoa campus. The bicycle pumps are mounted in cement blocks and are available twenty-four hours a day.

Nathan envisions the expansion of Cycle Manoa further into the community. As semesterly bicycle swaps have seen significant increases in demand, so has the influx of female participation. This semester, Cycle Manoa saw the largest increase in female volunteers in its youthful history.

Transfer student Erica Wong found Cycle Manoa via a list of UH Manoa clubs. Erica was surprised that Cycle Manoa existed and contacted Nathan to inquire about getting involved with the organization. Nathan not only welcomed Erica to Cycle Manoa, but also invited her to ride with the group on a week-long bicycle ride around the Big Island during spring break.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

It was during the weeklong bicycle ride that Erica befriended the members of Cycle Manoa, so much so that Erica has taken an active interest in club promotion. Rebekah Phillips also pedaled on the Big Island journey and has taken it upon herself to spread the mission of Cycle Manoa as strongly as possible.

Rebekah considers Cycle Manoa to be a family; exiting coordinator Nathan echoes this sentiment: “Cycle Manoa has been my family in Hawaii. The group is my closest friend group and includes the people I will miss the most. Cycle Manoa has been the place I felt most at home in Hawaii. It is hard to step away after being so involved.”

Zeb hopes to continue Nathan’s groundwork by keeping Cycle Manoa connected to the cycling community. Like Nathan, Zeb views the high demand of the bike swap as encouraging. All bicycles sold are recycled (donations from the public) and refurbished, so the bike swap highlights the sustainability of bicycles beyond the idea of reducing the reliance on fossil fuels.

Zeb estimates that Cycle Manoa has put out nearly four hundred bicycles at low-costs to college students. With more students riding bicycles, Cycle Manoa was able to successfully advocate for the placement of sharrows across campus and on Dole Street. This awareness of cycling has been ideal for students, as bicycling provides the freedom of mobility and independent transportation.

“Bicycles are part of how I operate,” explains Zeb, “I put things in perspective of how I would do it on a bike…there are always people that feel the same way and its shared; it’s a fun thing you share with others.”

Cycle Manoa | Educate, Advocate, Ride | www.cyclemanoa.org

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