Community, Features

BU Cycle Kitchen aims to build cycling culture through community events

In the center of the Boston University Cycle Kitchen — BUCK for short — stands a blue bike rack next to a tool-covered wall. Beside it, Jay Diengott, manager of cycle kitchen and bicycle programs, shows a BU student how to take off the back wheel of her bike.

“It’s cool to be able to do it myself,” said Orli Hendler, a graduate student in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “I don’t know much about bikes, but it’s nice to learn about it. I feel like I can take care of my bike better in the future.”

The BUCK, which is a part of BU Transportation Services, provides BU students and employees a space to learn to repair their bikes themselves. But the BUCK does not only help people fix or fine-tune — it also aims to foster community.

Sophomore Eli Gately walks his bike into the BU Cycle Kitchen (BUCK) to fix a flat tire. BUCK opened last semester with the intention of providing students and employees a space to learn how to repair their bikes themselves. LILY HANSEN/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

The BUCK offers community-building opportunities like group rides around the city and “urban riding” safety classes. Transportation Services has hosted similar events before, but the BUCK’s opening last fall allows for more frequent ones, said Carl Larson, assistant director of transportation demand management for Transportation Services.

“There’s coffee in the mornings on Thursdays where anyone can come in, chat and have fun,” said Cadel Courtney, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences participating in a work-study job at the BUCK. “In the past, we did a walk [in which] we teach you essentially the basics of bikes when it comes to maintaining them and keeping them all set.”

The idea for the BUCK came from a need for resources available to BU’s cyclists, Larson said. Tufts University had implemented a similar program, so the BUCK is an attempt to establish a similar campus bike shop in the heart of Boston, Larson said.

Larson said his hope for the BUCK not just to keep bikes in shape, but to create a larger bicycling culture at BU.

“People [bike] out of practicality, but there isn’t a whole lot of obvious community to it,” he said.

February’s lineup includes “Velotine’s Day,” where cyclists can give their bikes a thorough cleaning, and a hot cocoa ride, a guided group ride with stops for pastries and warm drinks.

Not everyone who works at the BUCK is a wizard bike mechanic. Some, like Jerry Zhou, a sophomore in CAS, find that their interests happen to overlap with those of the BUCK.

“I sent [Larson] an article that I wrote about Storrow Drive and how I don’t think it should exist,” Zhou said. “[Larson] read my article and was like, ‘I need to hire this guy.’”

Now, Zhou works at the Cycle Kitchen, where he said he has discovered a community of people who share his passion for urban development and infrastructure.

“It’s been helpful in finding other people who are interested in biking … as an activity, but also urban planning,” said Zhou, who majors in architectural studies. “I found a close friend who was fixing up his bike, and we were talking. We are both big transit nerds.”

Before he came to BU, Larson worked in bicycle advocacy, which he said entails working to “improve laws around bicycling, try to get safer street conditions and funding for education programs,” naming Boston-area bicycle advocacy groups like Boston Cyclists Union and MassBike.

A favorite BUCK activity of Larson’s is the “Midnight Marathon Ride,” where people ride the Boston marathon route — from Hopkinton to the finish line in Copley Square — beginning at midnight the night before the race.

“It started with BU students who recognized that, ‘Hey, all these streets are shut down [for the Boston Marathon],’” Larson said. “It’s a really fun party on wheels that now has happened for more than 10 years and it’s very popular.”

The BUCK’s group rides are planned to start again when the weather gets warmer, likely in late March or early April, Courtney said.

“Folks say they really want to ride bikes with their friends, but none of their friends ride bikes,” Diengott said. “We want to be able to connect people with other folks who want to get off campus and go explore in that way.”

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