It’s been nearly a year since Bici Digna first set up shop in downtown LA. Not only does the community-driven program provide weekly bike mechanic workshops for day laborers, but it has evolved to include a core group of volunteers that are dedicated to the space and sharing bicycle knowledge with others. Through this blog we’d like to introduce you not only to Bici Digna and what takes place in this space, but to all the people who provide the program with its soul and character.
This week we’d like to introduce you to one of the most dedicated volunteers of the Bici Digna program, Rafael.
Before he started volunteering with Bici Digna about four months ago, Rafael says he never really considered bicycling to be a particularly good experience. “Now it’s the complete opposite,” he says. “Bicycling is very good. You can come and go anywhere. With enough time, you can travel comfortably.”
Rafael has been using a bicycle as his main form of transportation for about a year. Before then, he used public transportation to get around. When compared to bicycling, Rafael says that you’re tied to a schedule when you take the bus. “It’s not always practical,” he says, “but bicycling is.”
Now, one of Rafael’s favorite things about riding a bicycle is being able to ride with a group. “A group ride is amazing, it’s something good. You coexist, you share, you get to know other people, you get to know different places. You get to harmonize a little.”
Since being involved with Bici Digna, Rafael says the most important thing he’s learned is that, in reality, being a part of the program isn’t just about learning something. “The way that people adapt to the program and what they feel is good or comfortable for them, that’s a condition.”
For Rafael, that condition involves being able to help others and share the knowledge he’s acquired about bicycle maintenance and repair. “Someone asked me for my help and I gave it to them, selflessly, and it was very nice, it was a good situation.”
Rafael participates in both the Wednesday workshops at Bici Digna, and the Saturday bicycle mechanic certification classes. Rafael says he participates in different aspects of the program because he tries to participate in all that he can, and because bicycles are something good. “I’m here to learn something more, because you feel free when you ride, and because you spend your time doing something useful here.”
“I would like there to be more information on what we do here, so that people know that we come here not just to look for work, but to learn. You come here to coexist with others, and to share what you know about bicycles,” Rafael says.
“What I’ve learned is that there is no age for bicycles,” Rafael says when asked if he’s learned anything about himself during his time with the program. “You can always ride, doesn’t matter your age, personality – nothing. When you want it, you can do it.”
To learn more about the Bici Digna Wednesday workshops or Saturday classes, please contact Arlen Jones, BiciDigna Coordinator, at bicidigna (at) la-bike (dot) org.