The Vancouver Courier cover story this week is about a project that WERA has been supporting.
Cover story, Vancouver Courier, April 27, 2012
A second-hand partially disassembled mountain bike hangs off a blue stand at the front of a workshop in King George secondary, a small West End high school.
Pedals, a reflector, a headset, cranks with three chain rings, and a few other parts lay scattered in a cardboard box beneath it. The bike and its parts belong to Grade 10 student Jelena Lazic.
Despite its state of disrepair, the garage sale find has served the Serbian-born teenager well-initially as transportation for her family, which doesn’t have a car, and now as a learning tool in a technical studies 10 course that includes sections on robotics and bicycle mechanics. Lazic, 15, is repairing the bike as a class project with 14-year-old classmate Maha Al-Fahim, who’s of Iranian origin.
“I took off the pedals because the bearings are rusted and I might have to replace them. I think I’m missing a couple. And I had to take off the brakes-it has a really old brake system,” says Lazic, whose ease with “bike talk” is partly due to King George teacher Jay Lo.
Lo developed and introduced the bike portion of the tech studies class she’s enrolled in-soon to be a stand-alone course called Human Power 1 next school year-to complement an extracurricular program known as Bikes.Community. Run by Robert Lee YMCA, Bikes.Community launched at King George in late September. It uses bikes as a vehicle to promote healthy lifestyles, to build students’ leadership skills, to strengthen ties with their community and to celebrate participants’ cultural diversity.
Lazic and Al-Fahim are involved in both cycling-focused initiatives, which capitalize on and actively promote Vancouver’s rapidly growing obsession with cycling.
For Lazic, the club and the class have proved invaluable-she’s picked up technical know-how, met new friends and even found a common interest with her father. “It feels amazing. I can show off at home and help out my dad [with bike repairs],” she says. “In Serbia, my uncle ran a bike shop. He and my dad would do all this work and I would always feel left out. I wanted to help out, but I didn’t know how to use any of the tools. I didn’t even know how to fix a flat tire. And now I have a kit for that.”
Traffic-heavy Denman Street borders King George secondary at 1755 Barclay St., a school which is otherwise surrounded by densely populated residential streets. Its location in a neighbourhood dominated by apartment buildings, with a significant car-free population, and its proximity to bike paths around English Bay and Stanley Park makes it an ideal site for pushing environmentally friendly cycling programs.
Nudging might be a better word in King George’s case. Like many Vancouver schools, it embraces “green” projects. Last year, stu-dents built planter boxes for a rooftop garden at St. Paul’s Hospital for a YMCA-run initiative, funded through a WelcomeBC grant that’s geared towards proposals involving newcomers to the city.
When the garden was completed, the Y, in conjunction with King George staff, dreamed up Bikes.Community as a second so-called demonstration project that qualified for WelcomeBC’s one-time $150,000 grant. The project’s partners include Gordon Neighbourhood House, the West End Residents Association and PEDAL-Pedal Energy Development Alternatives.
The overall idea was to gift participating students with donated second-hand bikes in need of repair and have them refurbish them, while they also met up for regular group activities. Twenty-seven students from 12 countries of origin were accepted into Bikes. Community-the majority of whom are King George high school students, although five attend its feeder elementary schools, Elsie Roy and Lord Roberts.
Read the rest of the story on the Courier website.