Bikes del Pueblo Keeps Mid-City Rolling

photo from Bikes del Pueblo
photo from Bikes del Pueblo

On a sunny Saturday morning, the City Heights Farmer’s Market is bustling with activity. If not one of the largest farmer’s markets in San Diego, it is probably one of the most utilized and most appreciated by the neighborhood’s residents. At one corner of the market, every Saturday morning, San Diego’s only bike kitchen, Bikes del Pueblo, sets up a tent and sets out several boxes full of tools and spare parts. A hand-lettered wooden sign tells you everything you need to know: “–Come build, fix, and learn about bikes; –Non-hierarchical, volunteer, cooperative; —Just ask if you have a Q.”

Bikes del Pueblo started setting up at the farmer’s market in City Heights about a year ago, and before that they shared space with the City Heights Free Skool/Escuela Libre de City Heights. The bike kitchen’s mission is to provide a non-threatening environment for people to come and learn to diagnose and repair problems with their bicycles. The tools and the expertise of the volunteers are both completely free.  While I was there, a young girl who had just finished repairing a flat tire shyly pushed a one-dollar bill at one of the volunteers before riding away with her family. Donations, when offered, are accepted by the bike kitchen, but there is no suggested donation, or any requirement to donate.

As much as Bikes del Pueblo are committed to educating residents about how to fix their bicycles, they are also deeply interested in forming bonds and building trust within the community. On the morning I spent with them, a lot of people from the Vietnamese community were stopping in. Hernan, one of the bike kitchen’s volunteers, explained that last week they had helped a Vietnamese man fix his bicycle, and he thought that word about the kitchen must have spread through that community.

photo from Bikes del Pueblo
photo from Bikes del Pueblo

Bikes del Pueblo helps community members work on between fifteen and twenty bikes every Saturday.  Common problems include bad brakes, broken chains, and flat tires. Most of the bikes people bring in are cheap, second-hand department store bikes, the only kind they can afford. “You can’t always replace everything or fix everything,” said Hernan about the low-quality bikes, “sometimes you just have to get it going again.”

When they have the parts available, kitchen volunteers build up good quality bikes and sell them at extremely low prices to people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford them. The goal is simply to get people mobile. As Hernan explained, “most of these people, bikes are their only transportation, and they have to get to work.”

Currently, Bikes del Pueblo is staffed by just three volunteers. They are always looking for new volunteers, especially multi-lingual ones, to staff the kitchen and they always appreciate donations of cash, tools, parts, or whole bicycles. For now, they can be found on Saturday mornings at the City Height’s Farmer’s Market, but they are hoping eventually to establish a permanent location somewhere in the Mid-City area.

Here’s some contact info from Bikes del Pueblo.

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