Susan's Super Citizen Showcase

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cycle mechanic Lisa Marie loves her job at OCB

Lisa Marie Froese

For some people, cycling is not a choice. Many low-income people rely on their own pedal power because cars are too expensive. Others are cycling activists who want a sustainable, non-polluting form of transportation. Our Community Bikes, on Main Street in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, exists to serve this group of commuters and reduce the negative effects of car culture.

“It caters to a demographic of people who use their bike for function because they can’t afford cars – like me!” says OCB bike mechanic Lisa Marie Froese, who pedals her way around the city in all seasons. "There are political reasons behind riding my bicycle and not having a car – because of how addicted everyone is to oil and the fact that they kill people over it. I’m not saying it’s the be-all end-all of revolution but I think it’s a conscious decision. I feel like it’s a pretty sustainable way of getting around. It's also good exercise, and it wakes me up in the morning when I have to jump on my bike and go.”

Here’s some info from the OCB website:

OCB is fully self-funded by revenue from the sale of reconditioned bikes, sales of new and used bike parts and components, the rental of shop space and tools for people wishing to repair their own bikes, bike repair services, and workshop fees.

Our goal at OCB is to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and foster sustainable communities by encouraging people to use bicycles for transportation in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Our dedicated staff and volunteers do this by:

  • Providing tools, workstands and guidance for those who wish to repair their own bikes (and thereby becoming more self-sufficient commuter cyclists)
  • Reconditioning donated bikes and parts destined for the waste stream
  • Offering courses in bike repair and commuter cycling (in the shop and at workplaces)
  • Donating bikes to local organizations in need including the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development and sending bicycles and parts to developing countries [Guatemala, Cuba, Togo]
  • Offering work experience and occupational therapy to volunteers from social service organizations and high-schools (JobStart, Greater Vancouver Mental Health Association)
  • Offering a full repair service with used and new parts and accessories for commuter cyclists

Lisa Marie started at OCB as a volunteer and became an employee a year and a half ago after learning the trade with funding from the Canadian Hire-A-Student program, during a break from art school. The 25-year-old, who shares a home and studio with her artist roommates, paints, draws, and makes stained glass. She’s been living in Vancouver for four years, after growing up in Manitoba and Ontario, and then “moving around a bunch in the U.S.”

She says OCB offers a degree of freedom unlike any other job she’s known.

“It’s not a really hierarchical space as far as there being a boss, and I think there needs to be more spaces like that. When I started working there, I learned more self-motivation and how to give myself direction. We can make decisions and initiatives in the space and make it our own,” she says. “It’s more of an autonomous space whereas my other jobs were more hierarchical and I was being bossed around by people, and I don’t want that in my life.”

Existing staff have their say when the shop considers new employees.

“Everyone, before they get hired, gets run by all the other people working there. It’s really important that we all get along; otherwise it’s not going to feel like a positive place for people to come into,” she says, explaining that OCB aims for an equal number of women and men on the payroll.

Despite this atmosphere of gender equity, OCB staff still contend with customers who question the female mechanics’ judgement.

“Working in a trade as a woman is pretty difficult. Sometimes people come into the store and ask to speak to a mechanic, even when I’m behind the counter. The men working there are all really aware of that. So if people second-guess the women who are working there, they’ll just look at them and say: ‘What she said. She knows what she’s doing.’ They really support us on that, and I think that’s really amazing,” she says. “It’s the first time people have been really conscious of that in a job that I’ve worked at.”

For more information on shop services, courses, and volunteering, visit:

Technorati tags

bicycle mechanic

women in trades


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home