I once took an damaged bicycle wheel into a bike shop in the East Village. The rim was bent but the hub was still in good condition so I wanted to see if they could just thread a new rim onto the old hub. The guys in the shop asked if I didn’t just want to buy a new wheel, and that it would be the same to buy a new wheel than to fix up the old one. I said no, I rather not throw away a good part, and also, the labor would be compensated here in my neighborhood, instead of being exported to some other place. Fair enough, they filled out the repair ticket and told me it would be a day or two for the repair. But just before I left the shop with my repair ticket, they stopped me and said that the bike mechanics had changed their minds, they didn’t want to fix it and instead would rather me just buy a new tire. I thought that was ridiculous and I left and haven’t ever been back.
What would happen if instead of having shops with new items, we had repair shops all over the neighborhood? How many more local workers could we employ and how much landfill space could we be saving? There are still remnants of this repair everything idea in neighborhood watch, shoe, and clothing repair shops – so the idea is not that impossible. Not to mention, the infrastructure is there too, a while back I fixed an old stereo by sourcing rare parts and the repair manual online. Since moving to Manhattan I’ve repaired a dozen or so other electronic devices, and even refurbished an apple laptop from a nyc garbage can – repaired even the most difficult parts – so they say, which was the screen hinge and cables.
In 2009 Martine Postma set up a Repair Café in Holland with this in mind: that maybe we can repair things instead of throwing them away. The cafe grew in popularity and then, as the video shows, and since then she set up a traveling “repair van” that goes to various communities and helps them establish their own repair shops. I can’t help but thinking how I would love to work at one of these cafés. It would seem like a very convivial and stimulating environment. The best part about it would be being able to help repair various items people wish to hold on to just a little bit long. The Repair cafe project is now being funded by the Dutch Environment Ministry.
As far as repairs cafés popping up in New York, we have to be realistic, it’s not going to happen overnight, but for starters NYC Time’s Up! bicycle advocates offer a DIY bike repair centers where people can take their bikes and use the tools on hand to repair their own bikes, with of course direction from one of the Times Up! volunteers on hand. The shops are open Mondays and Thursday in Manhattan, just under ABC No Rio, and in Williamsburg Brooklyn on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. See schedule below for details. Free, but donations welcome.
Manhattan Workshop Location:
156 Rivington St. (between Suffolk & Clinton St in Manhattan’s Lower East Side) in the basement. (see map)
Mondays, 6:30-8:30pm–Weekly Classes
Thursdays, 6:30-8:30pm–Fix-Your-Own-Bike Open Workshop
Brooklyn Workshop Location:
99 South 6th Street in Williamsburg, off Bedford Ave right under the Williamsburg Bridge. (see map)
Sundays, 6-8pm–Fix-Your-Own-Bike Open Workshop
Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30pm–Women & Trans Bike Repair Classes
Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30pm–Fix-Your-Own-Bike Open Workshop
Times Up, bike Co-Op Website
If it’s Broke, Fix it! Radio Netherlands Worldwide. by By Lioe Hesseling April 15, 2011