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A Woman Without A Bicycle Is Like A Fish Without A Man?

By Esme Howard

"More than bikes will be free when we eject the bourgeoisie."

So read a poster on the wall of the Bicycle Repair Collective, as it was called 19 years back in its hippy haven days: people then went to the Cambridge bike shop to learn from socialist/feminists how to fix their own bikes, or to have them repaired at reasonable cost.

And things really haven't changed.

Though its name has--to the Broadway Bicycle School--the store itself offers the same services, with much of the same political fervor.

While its poster of Karl Marx has come down, the shop is still run as a collective. Five member-workers own the store, and workers are paid hourly wages out of the money the collective takes in. "We're basically a worker's co-op," says Charles E. Sowers, an owner and member. "Everyone who owns the place works here and we each have one vote and equal say and share in the collective," he says.

And Broadway is still a teaching facility. While the less mechanically-motivated can pay to have their bikes taken care of, bikers who dare can either come in and rent space and time to fix their vehicles, or they can learn how to repair their bikes themselves.

The Utility Bike

Broadway also sells bikes--new and used. In fact, the members of the collective spend much of their time fixing and refurbishing old bikes.

What makes these repairpeople different from most, however, is that their primary movitation is not profit. Members of the Broadway School firmly believe that recreation is not the only purpose of cycling. According to Sowers, the bike is a form of utility; the school's goal is to get as many two-wheelers out on the road as possible.

"If people were riding bikes it would help the world," says Sowers. "It would help environmentally, politically, the list goes on--and there's no question that the bike is the fastest way to get around in the city."

Many locals have been inculcated by the school's philosophy. "Now I'm using a bike instead of a car," says Kristine Liema of Cambridge, who lives just a few blocks from the bicycle school. She says the teachers at Broadway "are really helpful and patient," and have helped her to stick by her decision to go the cycling route. Liema has been a regular of the school for almost two years now.

Another local, mental health professional Jack E. Harshman, says he has been coming to Broadway for five of his six years in Cambridge. "I spend a lot of time here, partly because I have no mechanical ability and they show me how to do a lot of things," he says.

"It's a nice place, and the people are friendly and helpful with technical morons like me," he continues.

While the collective maintains a loyal clientele, business is slow in the winter. According to Sue E. Doyle, a collective member of one year, most of the workers and owners have had to take up second jobs.

But according to the owners, in the spring, business explodes--bikers coming in on a Saturday in May can expect to wait in a long line.

But more than likely, even waiting around in line at the Broadway School is a "friendly" experience.

Feminist Leanings

Indeed, the school prides itself in being an open place that welcomes everyone. Among women, gay and lesbian bikers especially, Broadway is known to be a supportive place, worker-members say.

In fact, Broadway workers teach a special class for women only, which is geared toward providing a comfortable environment in which women can learn and work with bikes.

"Traditionally women have been discouraged from mechanical work. We've always felt a commitment to putting the wrench back in the woman's hand," says Sowers.

Kate Taylor, an employee only in her second week at the school, says she already likes the atmosphere at Broadway. "What attracted me was when a friend told me that they had a nice attitude towards women," she says.

"I've done a lot of work in carpentry and it's wonderful to be taken seriously from the start. You're taken for granted as a worker, and you don't have to prove anything."

According to Marcie Schutzman, a collective member of three years, a mix of gays, lesbians and straight men and women have worked in the shop since its opening. The school even advertises in gay and lesbian papers.

"It's definitely an aspect that sets us apart, but it's part of the whole scheme of things. It's part of us being open to all different kinds of lifestyles, bikes--whatever walks in the door," says Doyle. "We're people oriented."

"It's wonderful to be taken seriously from the start."

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