Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Youth Bike Project Sprouts from Quesada Gardens

Shane King poses with Nathan, Arrin and Shanika. His new film, Girls Rock, opens soon in Bay Area theaters.

Photos and article by Rhonda Winter

Local Bayview filmmaker Shane King has begun an inspiring bicycle project with the youth in his neighborhood. About a dozen youth on the 1700 block of Quesada Avenue work for one hour a month in the community garden and then, in exchange, get use of a refurbished bike for a month.

Shane explained that when Karl Paige, Quesada Gardens co-founder, died recently that being in the garden was just not the same; he wanted to find a way to make working in the garden as much fun as it had been with Karl. Shane also wanted to find a way to connect with the youth on his block.

“In addition to the loss of Karl, I was also motivated by Shanika’s older sister; by the time she was 17, she was pregnant with her third child,” Shane explains. “I wanted to find something positive for the children in the neighborhood to become interested in, and bicycles were part of the answer. For me, ever since I was a kid growing up in Portland, bikes have always been a symbol of freedom. I had lent one of my bikes to a child in the neighborhood and then I saw four kids piled on top of it, all using it together. Then it seemed obvious to me, these kids need bicycles.”

In between teaching video production at San Quentin Prison, film-making, and a myriad of other projects, Shane arranged for a donation of bicycles for the neighborhood youth and fixed them up in his garage. The hours the kids spend working in the garden is pretty much done on the honor system, and there have been a few problems sorting it all out. There is also an ongoing need for more adults to become involved supervising and working with the youth in the garden, as well as with teaching them general bike maintenance.

Shanika told me that she works in the garden with her grandmother. “ We weed, pull up aloe vera and make lotion.“ Arrin said that she also learned a big lesson about responsibility concerning her bike. “I lent my bike to my cousins and they really messed it up. The bike was busted and the water bottle holder was broke. Now I know to never lend my bike to them again.“ Arrin said that she would also like to learn more about how to fix her bike herself when something is wrong with it.

Shane said that at present he has enough donated bikes, but that he could use some bike tools, like cone wrenches, as well as a little help fixing and maintaing the bikes for the youth. Presently he doesn’t really have time to train the youth thoroughly in bike maintenance and his garage is also getting very crowded. Shane said that eventually he would like to see the project expanded beyond his garage.
Bayview resident James Ross, Shane, Shanika, Arrin, Nathan and I also discussed the possibility of expanding the bike project into a more stuctured youth bike training program, as well as a store front bicycle shop on Third Street. Pedal Revolution and the Bike Kitchen in the Mission already have various types of basic bike mechanics training for youth, and provide excellent models for reference and inspiration.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has expressed its enthusiastic support for such a project in the Bayview, and they are helping the Quesada Gardens Initiative to explore different options to expand the youth bike project; possibly including existing local resources like the YMCA and other neighborhood community gardens. A shared community space storefront is also an idea that has been considered. If you have any ideas to share regarding how to expand the Quesada youth bike project or would like to help out in some capacity, please contact the Quesada Gardens Initiative or Rhonda Winter.

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