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Bike Activist To Launch Repair Shop And Cafe In Historic Boston Building

Written by Boston Biker on Jan 14

Noah Hicks, a 28-year old self-styled bicycle mechanic, activist, and entrepreneur, is launching The Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen: a minority-owned, full-service bicycle shop and cafe, in his native Dorchester. The Bike Kitchen will be housed in a historic, long-abandoned building with an important transportation-related history: a rest stop along a formerly busy streetcar line, today still an important transportation corridor that is increasingly used by local and regional cyclists.

Noah Hicks, a 28-year old self-styled bicycle mechanic, activist, and entrepreneur, is launching The Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen: a minority-owned, full-service bicycle shop and cafe, in his native Dorchester.

Hicks, who grew up in Boston’s Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, is the founder of the Bowdoin Bike School, a nonprofit bicycle repair and teaching center that engages local youth in mastering bicycle mechanics. The school, presently housed in a former automotive repair garage, is already an important community hub for youth development, economic self-sufficiency, transit justice, and health equity. By providing low-cost repair services and free instruction to over 1,200 youth and adults annually, Bowdoin Bike School has made cycling accessible to many who were underserved by traditional bike shops.

The Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen and Bowdoin Bike School will bring new life to a historic, city-owned structure in an area of the city with limited amenities and where residents’ average income is significantly lower than the City of Boston as a whole. The project is made possible through a unique, early partnership with Historic Boston Incorporated, a nonprofit developer focused on historic preservation, and The American City Coalition, a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization group. Utile, Inc. Architecture + Planning, one of Boston’s leading architectural firms, is project architect. The partnership’s proposal was selected by the city, allowing for purchase of the property for $100.

The Bike Kitchen will be housed in a historic, long-abandoned building with an important transportation-related history: a rest stop along a formerly busy streetcar line, today still an important transportation corridor that is increasingly used by local and regional cyclists.

“I will be very happy to see this unused public asset brought into productive use,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “This project will help activate the street and continue the positive momentum of this historic Boston neighborhood.”

From an early age, Hicks used biking for exercise and exposure to green spaces, and as a means to access social activities outside of his neighborhood. Hicks outgrew bicycling as he got older, and embarked on a career teaching Latin at an urban charter school. When the school closed, he returned to bicycles as an affordable alternative to public transportation or cars, and to earn money refurbishing old bicycles—many of them abandoned on city streets.

“I ended up just experimenting on a bike I bought that was in bad shape. By doing that, I was able to save myself a few dollars,” said Hicks. Hicks then started flipping bikes, buying used bikes and throwing his own personal touch to his creations, realizing that he could make 3 or 4 more times what he had spent. “I started selling bikes for income and that was huge for me,” said Hicks.

“Biking can bring together youth and adults while promoting active transportation, which is healthy and environmental friendly,” said Karen Jenkins, Board Chair of The League of American Bicyclists. “Sip and Spoke Bike Kitchen will bring services and support, and will be a gathering place in a community that has had a dearth of support for cyclists while forging alliances with bike advocacy organizations, shops, and clubs in other Bostoncommunities.”

Hicks seeks to respond to the needs of low-income riders and working-class immigrants, who use the bike as a means of transportation that is both cheaper than a car and faster than walking. These “subsistence cyclists” comprise a large portion of the local and national cycling community.

“The absence of bike shops in many of Boston’s neighborhoods is very much akin to the absence of access to supermarkets,” said Richard Fries, Executive Director of MassBike. “We, as a culture, are not providing very good access to bicycles for the people who could benefit most. Noah recognizes and is responding to that need.”

“I have lived in this community for my entire life and there is a dearth of places for us to meet, to collaborate, to celebrate our neighborhood’s rich culture and unique character,” says Hicks. “Bikes and coffee are both tremendously unifying, and I see this project as an opportunity to bring people together and raise awareness about the needs of low-income riders.”

With construction financing in place for the structure, Hicks now must now raise the money for build-out costs for the historic structure—adding the amenities needed to create an inviting community hub in his Dorchester neighborhood. Hicks has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with the hope that other individuals committed to socially conscious cycling and building community capital will contribute.


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