Yellow Bike News for September 2013

Yellow Bike Makes a Big Shift

We have some enormous news to kick off this month’s edition of The Greasy Rag. Beginning on Tuesday, October 1, YBP will be expanding its hours for sales of bicycles and parts! A staff of daytime mechanics will be on hand from 11am–6pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays to hook you up with spare tubes, fresh cables, and the sweet new-to-you steed you’ve been dreaming of. They’ll also be wrenching away to create a larger stock of ready-to-ride bikes than ever before, with affordable options for cyclists great and small.

 This is a real sea change for YBP, the result of literally years of discussion and planning. Since the construction of our Webberville shop, we’ve spent countless hours envisioning the ways we can continue to grow, make the best use of our fantastic facilities, and repay the city that has supported us with 16 years of volunteering, donations, enthusiasm, and straight-up love. We are incredibly excited about this step towards being an even better community bike shop and putting more bikes on the streets of Austin. We also realize that such a big change presents some big questions—we’ve asked plenty of them ourselves.

 YBP’s great as it is. Why change?

We are very fortunate to have our home on Webberville Road—not only is it a great space, the decades-long term of our lease on the land is unique among community bike shops. Since we no longer have to pour time and energy into picking up and moving every few years, we’re in a position to dream bigger, and feel a deep responsibility to that.

Does this mean YBP is no longer all-volunteer? Why paid staff?

Since opening the Webberville shop in 2010, we’ve continued to find that no matter how dedicated our roster of Coordinators is, expanding hours at YBP through volunteers alone simply hasn’t been possible. Paid staff is a big change that we’ve contemplated very seriously for years. Ultimately, we decided that making greater use of the shop, expanding our programming, and getting more folks on bikes is worth the risk of changing our long-standing status as a 100% volunteer organization. Make no mistake—volunteers are and will continue to be the heart and soul of YBP, forming our Collective, governing the organization by consensus, and running our traditional Open and Volunteer shops. Our volunteer Collective has decided to hire a small staff of mechanics to make use of the shop during the day. This means donated bicycles will find themselves being ridden again faster than ever before, cyclists east of Airport will have access to a bike shop during normal business hours, and that Coordinators at our Open and Volunteer Shops will be able to spend more time helping you learn and less time dealing with sales.

Does this mean I can pay you to fix my bike?

Nope. Our paid mechanics’ hours will be devoted to fixing up ready-to-ride sale bikes and keeping the doors open during the daytime for folks to shop for bikes and parts or to drop off donations. When it comes to repairs, we’re standing by our “teach ‘em to fish” empowerment ethos. Our Open Shops will continue to provide free access to the tools and knowledge you need to keep your own bike rollin’ happily along. If wrenching just really isn’t your thing, don’t despair. Austin is home to an abundance of full-service bike shops and world-class mechanics who would be happy to fix your bike for you, and we encourage you to support them where both paid repairs and fancy-new goods are concerned.

I love to stop in and volunteer when I get the chance. If your staff is working on sale bikes all day, what will that leave me to wrench on?

One of the most exciting aspects of this shift is that we’ll be able to devote much more of our volunteers’ time to fixing up bikes that we don’t sell. While the City of Austin prepares to roll out its bike share and the free-to-ride-but-not-to-keep Yellow Bike coasts off into the sunset of history, YBP is still continuing to give away a whole lot of free bikes. From New Orleanians who evacuated after Hurricane Katrina to international asylum-seekers living at Casa Marienella to kids in schools and extracurricular programs all over town, we do our best to make old bikes new again for the folks who need ‘em the most. With our daytime mechanics keeping the sale racks full, we’ll be able to devote more resources than ever before to projects like these—including more of your time as a volunteer on a workstand.

 We’re pretty darn stoked to announce this, and can’t wait to see more of you in October!

A More Perfect Collective

Along with the introduction of daytime staff, YBP is making some changes to requirements for Collective Membership. In the past, anyone who had volunteered at least 24 hours within a three-month period, attended a Collective Meeting, and announced their interest was automatically deemed a Collective Member. With the increasing complexities and ramifications of Collective decisions, and the considerable power that every Collective Member wields in the consensus decision-making process, we’ve decided to introduce a bit more education and rigor to the mix. Since most of our Collective Members are also shop Coordinators, we’ve decided to wed the path toward Collective Membership to our Coordinator Apprenticeships.

Want to become a YBP Collective Member and Coordinator? Once you’ve volunteered at least 24 hours within a three-month period, attend a Collective Meeting (held on the first Tuesday of every month, 7pm, at our Webberville shop) and announce your intent. Then you’ll sign up to Apprentice one weekly shop on that month’s schedule. Apprenticeship is a self-guided process. You’ll choose at least one Coordinator to serve as your mentor, learn the ins and outs of shop operations and Collective consensus governance, and expand both your mechanical and organizational knowledge and skills. When you and your mentor feel you’re ready to become a Collective Member and Coordinator, you will be nominated at a Collective Meeting. At the following Collective Meeting, the Collective will either approve your nomination, or ask that you continue your Apprenticeship.

Mi Casa es Su Casa, Mi Bici es Su Bici

As mentioned above, one of the community organizations YBP has partnered with in recent years is Casa Marienella. Since 1986, Casa has provided shelter, services, and community connections for newly arrived immigrants, asylum seekers, and asylees in East Austin, with a goal of establishing self-sufficiency and independence in their new home. For residents of Casa, access to transportation is a major concern—without automobiles, the limitations of walking and public transit makes finding work and accessing services all the more difficult. In 2011, YBP fixed up and donated a small fleet of bicycles for use by residents, and this month, we’ll be concentrating our Volunteer Shops on putting a few more sets of wheels in Casa’s racks. Swing by on a Thursday night, or volunteer during one of our Open Shops, to lend a hand.

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