Sarah Braker, communications manager
Noah Hicks (left) cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of Bowdoin Bicycle School
On Friday August 14, 2015, Noah Hicks used a pair of giant scissors to cut a ribbon at the grand opening of Bowdoin Bicycle School. This was a moment three years in the making, beginning when Hicks decided it was time to bring affordable bike services to his neighborhood, the Bowdoin/Geneva section of Dorchester, Massachusetts. Now, says Hicks, “We have a perfect space for people to walk up and see the magic happen and get advice for how they can care for their bicycles.”
At first it was just Hicks and a few friends, a repair stand and some tools. “I took this as an opportunity to bring bikes to the people and reduce the barriers for them to get riding,” Hicks explains. It only took one day for him to know it was going to work. “Once we hit the ground there were resources from every corner of the neighborhood,” he says, “and that made me dream bigger.”
A group ride helps encourage more community members to ride.
Bowdoin Bike School offers affordable bike repair and teaches customers how to maintain their bikes. Hicks also helps coordinate group rides, which he says are critical to getting the neighborhood involved. “Group bicycle rides take away the stigma and fear,” he explains, “we can travel in packs and travel slowly so people can just jump in to the ride.”
Hicks is always seeking more financial support–from companies, organizations and individuals–so he can keep his shop affordable for everyone. But one thing he’s not lacking in is community support. Just 24 hours before the grand opening, a team of volunteers (many of them young people from the neighborhood) was moving bikes, tools and parts into the new Bowdoin Bike School location. “A lot of the people came right back and partied with us,” Hicks says of the grand opening the next day, “it wasn’t me celebrating my shop, it was the community celebrating the shop they had built.”
The new site of Bowdoin Bicycle School, where all the magic happens.
Hicks is passionate about using bikes to combat poverty and inequality. He’s been able to offer employment opportunities to two young people so far and those opportunities will increase next summer. That’s when he’s slated to open a bike shop and watering hole in the Upham’s Corner neighborhood of Boston. It will be a space, he says, “that is a generator of jobs and revenue and growth for the community.”
Until then, Hicks, along with and his partner/bookkeeper Jovanny Muñoz, mechanic’s apprentice Adly Francois, and a team of volunteers, will continue to do what they do–help people fix bikes and gain the confidence to ride them more often. “Everyone involved loves bikes,” Hicks explains, “and all of us are doing this because of a love of cycling and the importance it can have in our community.”