By Tomas Rivera
This has been a time of success and growth for Chainbreaker as a whole and for the Bicycle Resource Center (BRC) in particular. In our previous report, we discussed the details of the “Help Santa Feans Ride” campaign.
This campaign was launched by Chainbreaker members in response to a proposal from elected officials to create a “bike-share” program. A bike-share program is a taxpayer subsidized bicycle rental system. Participants use a credit card to rent a bike from one station and return it at a different location. The proposal would have used funds from a CIP bond that we had previously worked to secure. The bike-share plans raised serious equity concerns and threatened to take money from our already underfunded bus system, on which many of our members depend.
Chainbreaker members developed a strategy to stop the bike-share proposal by defending it and redirecting the money toward a program that provides free bus passes to people who purchase a bicycle or receive one through the BRC.
We are happy to report that the campaign was a huge success. We were not only able to neutralize our opponents, but to move the champion of the bike-share proposal to publicly change her position and co-sponsor our bill. Our bill pass unanimously in July, effectively stopping a problematic project, circumventing almost certain bus service cuts and fare hikes, and helping hundreds of people like us who use bikes to mitigate long distances to bus stops.
This campaign allowed us to grow our membership base even further. New leaders were recruited to be ongoing volunteers during BRC shop hours and several began taking on very active leadership roles in our campaign work, including talking to elected officials, conducting direct outreach and public speaking. Nearly fifty new members were recruited through this campaign and five strong organizational leaders emerged. Several people involved in this campaign engaged in the political process for the first time. Many members were transformed and inspired to know that our collective actions were able to make changes that will benefit our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
The energy for the BRC created by this campaign made this summer the most productive ever for our bicycle education and redistribution efforts. The need for bicycles always increases during warmer months. However, this year interest and participation in the program remained steady from the previous quarter, while the number of bikes distributed nearly doubled. These numbers indicate that the project runs at the capacity dictated largely by the physical constraints of our building.
However, the jump in bicycle distribution indicates that our volunteers worked twice as hard to meet the needs of participants. Our mechanic instructors contributed over five hundred hours of in-kind volunteer time directly on the BRC project. This does not include countless in-kind hours of outreach for the Help Santa Feans Ride campaign.
The organization is growing at a significant rate. Our growth and success sometimes makes it hard to foresee all challenges. Due in large part to this workload, we were forced to temporarily suspend our Tuesday evening BRC workshop in mid-July. Mechanics were simply overwhelmed. At the same time, new volunteers who were eager to get involved, but lacked mechanics skills, did not have a concrete mechanism to do so.
BRC mechanics responded by launching a nine week long training session for new BRC mechanics to hold the space of our Tuesday workshop. The pilot session began in late-July with twenty participants. The trainings are designed to develop new leadership and ensure a broad volunteer base through popular education. Long time mechanics developed a detailed, hands-on curriculum to provide not only mechanics skills, but also educate participants about BRC culture. Proper tool usage, diagnostics, repair techniques and terminology are taught by focusing on specific parts of the bicycle in two-hour, weekly sessions. Interpersonal relationship techniques for how to be sensitive to the specific concerns of our community members is also incorporated into the curriculum. Participants are asked to complete to the full course and commit to ongoing participation in the program. These trainings will help create standards of repair and safety while opening an avenue for new members to get involved on a deeper level. We expect that this training will allow us to expand BRC and ensure it's long-term sustainability.
In addition, this June we also hosted our annual board retreat. We invited three new board members who grew their leadership skills significantly during the Help Santa Feans Ride campaign. The retreat was two full days of reflection and strategizing for the coming year. As a result of this retreat, we are focusing more attention than ever on board development and are currently in the process of creating a comprehensive five year strategic plan. This plan will not only be approved by board members, but brought to our general membership base for approval at our annual membership meeting in December.
The support of SDOP has been invaluable. It has helped us leverage funding from other national faith based organizations and provided critical support during a time of growth for the BRC and the organization as a whole.
Listing SDOP as a funder has also helped us gain access to churches and other community centers that otherwise would have been more of a challenge.
We know that SDOP provides support to organizations who struggle to find support from other sources. Chainbreaker has benefited greatly from your commitment to this.
We also deeply appreciate the support, patience and encouragement provided by SDOP members as we grow into the organization we have always dreamed of so we can continue to make our lives and the lives of our community members better.
Former SDOP committee member, Karen Finney lives in Santa Fe and remains active on the ground with Chainbreaker. She is currently helping Chainbreaker spread their message and deepen their relationships with members local Presbyterian Churches by increasing outreach over the upcoming holiday season.