wrenching at the free bike repair shop
he opened in a pedestrian plaza
in St. Petersburg.
(Photo: MR7 News Russia)
The other day I heard from one of our former news interns, Adams Carroll. We loved having Adams on the team. He’s a great photographer and writer and he loves bikes. We were sad to see him go, but he moved on to chase an opportunity he couldn’t pass up — which just so happened to be in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Yesterday (thanks to Facebook) Adams filled me in on the St. Petersburg bike scene and his involvement in it. Below is Adams’ dispatch:
St. Petersburg is no Portland, but there are a few interesting bikey things going on that might be of interest to you. There’s a small but active bike scene here that lately has been taking cues from Portland. In fact, the most popular St. Petersburg bike blog, Iron Pony First! links to BikePortland, and its author, Olesya Shchukina, reads your site religiously! [blushing]
the Ding Dong exhibition.
Unfortunately though, there is very little transportation activism here. Recently, though, a few fun bike projects have popped up that subtly promote bicycling in a way that might eventually open the door to hard activism. There’s Ding Dong, an exhibition of painted bicycle bells and accompanying illustrations that opened in St. Petersburg, traveled to Berlin, and last weekend landed in Moscow. (I’ve collected a few links to reviews and good pictures on my site).
VeloMelo is a new local business that makes handmade panniers and handlebar bags out of recycled materials. Apparently they’ll ship anywhere in the world (even Portland!). I’m meeting with them tomorrow to plan a custom tool roll that they are going to put together for me.
Last April I opened a free bike repair shop that meets every Saturday on Salt Lane (a pedestrian street). It caught on quick this summer; by August I had a partner-mechanic! We made the news a few times and were even offered space in a few places to keep it going over the winter, but for now it’s in hibernation. We are thinking of using the space offered to teach free master-classes and we’re also working on printing Petersburg’s first unofficial bike map.
“There is even bike fun here, although it is much more monotone than in Portland.”
There is even bike fun here, although it is much more monotone than in Portland. Every Friday night at 11:00 pm, hundreds of people gather in palace square for Pin-Mix. It’s a bit like Portland’s Midnight Mystery Ride, except that the meeting place is always the same. From there, the route changes every week and usually doesn’t end until sunrise. And yes, people still come out in winter, even in January when its -20ºC.
As far as bike clubs go, there’s Rastabike, which is about as close as you get to Chunk 666 or the Dropout Bike Club (two Portland freak bike clubs). They make choppers and cruisers that are generally very polished, but which lack the unfettered attitude of an honest Portland freak bike. There’s also a young, growing fixed gear club. Most people ride mountain bikes here (even though St. Petersburg is absolutely flat and paved), so most of their bikes are hobbled together from old soviet touring and track bikes.
Every time I need something as simple as a brake pad I have to order it from Europe and then wait 2-3 weeks for it to go through customs.
It’s very hard to find good bike parts here, and unfortunately, all of the bike shops truly suck. It’s one of the things I miss most about Portland. Every time I need something as simple as a brake pad I have to order it from Europe and then wait 2-3 weeks for it to go through customs. The bike shops here aren’t just poorly stocked, their also generally staffed by arrogant hot-heads who refuse to conceive of bicycles as anything but forest crunching dirt jumpers (I could go on forever about this).
We still don’t have bike infrastructure or parking, but we do have a recently opened Olympic-spec velodrome. It’s pretty neat, but I think I’d gladly trade it for some nice green bike boulevards and a secure place to lock up.
Thanks for the excellent summary of bike life in St. Petersburg Adams. Best of luck with all your endeavors and hope the bike shop continues to flourish. Next time I’m passing through, I’ll definitely stop by.