May 20. 2012

Detroit’s Real Bike Chix

by Nora

Beren, Carmen, Doc, Jen, Kezia and Sarah. They come from all walks of life and all parts of town. They call themselves the Fender Benders. Think about it: How often have you had a woman repair your bike? What’s the deal with those pedal wrenches that seem to have a sex of their own? Sarah Sidelko goes by the nickname “Sidewalk” – in matters of transportation justice, she’s the boss. Sarah has been living in Detroit for 10 years — out of which she spent 7 years without a car. That inspired her love of bikes, and to co-create Fender Bender, a bike shop that primarily reaches out to women, queer and transgender folks – as well as youth enrolled in Summer programs around the city. Reminder No. 1: While the Motor City isn’t exactly bike-friendly, a woman walking down the street by herself is considered at risk. Reminder No. 2: The gay pride only moved back to Detroit’s downtown last year – (the parade took place out of Detroit for the past 20 years.) In that context, Fender Bender is revolutionary in mixing transportation justice AND girl+LGBT power. “It’s about creating a safe space where we can have free conversations. We use bike mechanics to think about ourselves” says Sidewalk. Humans and two-wheelers have lots in common. For a smooth ride, you need true wheels. You “get your bearings together” and then adjust the spokes. Well, people do that too, you know. I was lucky to follow the first 6-week long workshop that Fender Bender put together. Each session started with a roundtable asking how everybody’s week was; a time to reflect, share, and care. Through becoming a Fender Bender myself, I gained balance and confidence. Sidewalk’s mantra is “be the change you want to see in the world” — and she does it well. Fender Bender will launch a bicycle lending library (the first of its kind in Detroit) to be kicked off at the Allied Media Conference. You can contribute by simply donating a bike and/or helmets. Keep up to date with Fender Bender Detroit here. The shop already offers both bike repairs and bikes for sale within its blue walls, and more workshops are to come in the next few months. * Fender Bender was awarded the May Detroit SOUP’s micro-grant by the majority’s vote. TO SEE THE FULL FLICKR SET, FOLLOW THIS LINK.


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