The wheels in the SPOKES go round

The wheels on most peoples’ bicycles do go round and round without fault; unless you happen to be me. I was riding eastbound down Cook Street, here in Victoria last Tuesday evening, when ‘surprise-surprise’ one of the spokes in my rear rim decided to snap off. Lucky me! I was still able to make it to my appointment on time and thankfully back home in one piece; but getting around town since then has been rather difficult. Old reliable [my bicycle] is currently in the shop undergoing repairs;  according to the mechanic at Oak Bay Bicycles I may need a whole new rim and not just a single spoke. In its current state, riding my bicycle is like riding a tricycle that’s been run over a few times by the family van. The state of my bicycle, is understandable when you consider that my bike, like myself is also probably undergoing a quarter life crisis. This means that we both require a little more maintenance, then we used to when we were younger. So you are probably now thinking, Stafford this really sucks- what do I do, if this happens to me?

Well instead of shelling out big bucks for a costly fix, if you live in Victoria go and visit Will and Emily, the two expert mechanics at SPOKES. The program is a trailblazing initiative that was originally created by Sarah Webb, the University of Victoria’s first sustainability coordinator back in 2003. At first, SPOKES was a personal passion and a side project, not part of her official duties as UVic Sustainability Coordinator. But over the past seven years under the guidance of a few dedicated local bicycle gurus, the program has evolved into the epicentre for bicycle culture on and off campus. Its growth and development can be attributed to some of its many program sponsors: the University of Victoria and their Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability, the University of Victoria Student Society,  the University of Victoria Graduate Student Society, the University of Victoria Sustainability Project and the University of Victoria Bicycle Users Committee. SPOKES is now [for the duration of the summer] conveniently located on the University of Victoria campus beside the Residence Life office in the Cadboro Bay Commons complex room F100. Their summer hours of operation are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5-6PM.  A few weeks ago, I was able to briefly chat with Will and Emily about what it is like to work in the hub of campus cool.

The Dream Team

To Tread Lightly, Will and Emily in the bat cave... I mean bicycle cage. Although, Bruce Wayne would be jealous of the sweet set-up that SPOKES has.

Q # 1/ To Tread Lightly [TTL]: Have you [SPOKES] inspired other programs, at other schools that are similar to SPOKES?

Will: Actually, we did not originate the idea of the bicycle grants program. Before we were set-up in 2003, there was already a similar program at the UBC called the Bike Kitchen.

Emily: [while tuning a person’s bicycle, over hears this comment and adds] Will, did you get a chance to ride that email from that person in Ontario? He mentioned starting a bicycle grants program at his University and using SPOKES as a model.

Q # 2/ TTL: In your opinion how is the state on campus [the University of Victoria] and throughout Victoria?

Will: Well, we have great student interest and involvement at the moment which is represented by clubs, such as a great new group called the Uvic Bike Collective [UBiC]. In addition to this, I would say that overall we have a pretty vibrant scene thanks to people like David Griffin Brown who is both an advocate and an organizer. He runs the Critical Mass Ride in Victoria.

Emily: It is a pretty great, but it could definitely use more cyclists, we always need more cyclists.

Emily fixing a customer's bicycle

Will: We could always use more separated bicycle lanes because they make people feel more confident about riding in traffic. There are some groups such as the Other Urban Repair Squad, who illegally paint shared bicycle signs on the streets. They do this to point out gaps in service, but their actions are often frowned upon by the establishment [in local government].

… Well, that is it for today. Until tomorrow stay tuned for part two of my feature interview with Will and Emily and as always may you tread lightly.

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