Sunday, September 14, 2008

Books on Wheels featured in Momentum

Books on Wheels – free books and bike repairs, too

My friend Ward and I started Books on Wheels in January 2007. We drive around in a bus and give away books and do free bicycle repair. The bus is called the “MobookMobikeMobile.” It is filled with books, bicycle parts, and tools. Our mission is to promote literacy and alternative transportation. We provide our services to anyone, but we concentrate on working in low-income neighbourhoods.

I had been working on bikes for a few years, and always liked the idea of mobile bicycle repair, since people who really need their bikes probably don’t have another way to get to a shop. I was in a car accident in January 2007, and left with a settlement cheque. I figured I would buy a bus and try it out.

Ward and I were hanging out at my house one day soon after this, and he noticed I had circled a bus in an auto magazine. I told him what I was thinking, and he said he had always wanted to have a bookmobile. Ward owns a used bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, called Chop Suey, and always has plenty of books. We agreed to split the cost and bought the bus the next day. We gutted it, painted it, and started asking for book and bike donations.

We get every type of book, but mostly children’s books, which is perfect because those are always the ones in highest demand. The majority of the books are taken to schools that are poorly funded and without a lot of books.

We do bicycle repair at our events. We set up anywhere: parks, street corners, restaurant parking lots. We park the bus and unload our bike stands and tools. We decide on locations based on where people we know live or work and can put posters up in the neighbourhood to let people know where to bring their bike on a certain time and date for repair. The most common type of repair is flat tires. After that, people always need brake work.

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