NolaCycle is a project aimed to create a high quality cycling map of New Orleans. Cycling maps include information beyond just streets and their names that benefits cyclists. In our map, we highlight the pavement quality, car travel speed, lane width, and special caution areas (busy intersections, man-eating potholes, or high accident areas). Volunteers help to collect this data by attending mapping events.
The information is then digitized to make a map of the data we collected to help cyclists - young, old, local, and tourist alike - navigate New Orleans.

Check out the blog for updates on the project, ways to get involved, and volunteer mapping events!

If you have questions, feel free to make a public comment on the blog entry or e-mail us directly at

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lauren's ramblings concerning the recent wave of Plan B bashing on Craigslist

So I was looking over the bike ads on Craigslist this evening (the ADHD meds wore off a couple hours ago) and came across a number of posts bashing Plan B.

Plan B is a community bicycle shop in the Marigny. It's a place anyone can go to build or repair a bike for little to no money. If you haven't been there and you would like to do your own bicycle repairs, or you're thinking of building a bike, check it out. all community bike shops, it's not perfect. And sometimes it can feel exclusive. So here's what some folks on Craigslist said followed by how I feel about Plan B (and community bike shops in general) and my recommendations to people who want to utilize the community bike shop.

Here's a sampling of the CL rant:

1st post (from Plan B): Plan B Community Bike Shop is graciously accepting donations (511 Marigny (Marigny and Decatur))
Ladies and Gentlemen!

Plan B is looking for bicycle donations of all kinds
We don't discriminate; drop off bikes of any age, size, color, or design.
We can use anything you have to offer
whole bikes or spare parts
advanced or obsolete
It's all good...

If you are interested in learning about bike maintenance and repair...
Volunteer orientations are every Wednesday @ 6pm

Show us what ya got
Help out a little around the shop

Plan B

2nd post (from some dude): Plan B doesn't appreciate parts (Hipster ville)
I donated a big box of parts there once.All kinds of quality items.I came in and said I have a bunch of parts for you.The guy in charge literally shrugged his shoulders and went back to what he was doing.He didn't say a word! I wasn't looking for praise but I certainly didn't want to be treated like a jerk!So if you wear clean clothes and wash your hair you may not be welcome here.

3rd post: agreed on PlanB bikes (reality)
if i had bike parts to donate, i would give them to Bridgehouse before i gave them to PlanB.

i went in there once and was violently ignored. maybe they sensed i **gasp** drove my car there!! i finally had to inturrupt someone to ask for if they had a certain bike there, and after this girl gave me a once-over and walked away, i asked someone else who said no. they dont have that there. no helpful advice or anything! i felt like i had done something wrong! guess that's what happens when gutter punks start a 'business'.

dont get me wrong - i think bike rinding is great and necessary! but if PlanB hates outsiders so much, they should shut their doors.

Another post (from some dude): Plan B.......
This is straight from their web site. I just copied and pasted.
Although Plan B volunteers can be quite surly, we can be ever so gracious in the face of generosity.
Apparently "gracious" has very loose meaning

And it sorta goes on from there...

Here's how I feel about all of this (This only reflects my opinion and not particularly that of anyone else involved with NolaCycle):

Plan B is a great resource, with a lot of great volunteers, but it's not perfect. As someone who has been a regular visitor to 4 community bike shops in a couple different cities, let me help put things into perspective.

Concerning volunteers:
  • Volunteers are regular people like you, who have good days and bad days. They have days when they really didn't want to work but someone who was scheduled didn't show up, so they might not be as happy to help as you might want them to be. And when it's 3pm on a Saturday and 25 people are all asking you questions because you're the only "regular" volunteer who knows where things are and how to fix various problems, working at Plan B can be stressful. Cut them some slack if they aren't as helpful and nice as you might want them to be.
  • Some volunteers are "people persons" and others are not. Some of the folks who might not seem really friendly or helpful still play critical, not-so-visible roles in keeping Plan B going. They are not the person you ask to help you straighten your wheel, though. At Plan B, or any other busy community bike co-op, you will probably need to visit a few times before you figure out who your "volunteer match" is. You will love some volunteers (not all volunteers), and they'll love you (but not all volunteers will love you), and after you find your volunteer match, together you will build solid wheels, replace broken pedals, and maybe, someday, weld together a custom bicycle. Remember what days they normally volunteer and try to only go to Plan B those days. They'll remember what you're working on and what you need help with (maybe you know how to true a wheel, but you're still learning how to adjust brakes and shifters). And you'll remember their name, and where they grew up, and what they do for a living, and their favorite beer because you're probably going out to the bar with them after the shop closes. But remember, your volunteer bicycle repair BFF is probably 20 other people's BFF, so you have to share. If you work on bikes a lot, and need a lot of help, then try to build relationships with multiple volunteers. You will most likely need to initiate this process, though. If you don't ask for help or try to engage people in conversation, they're going to be too busy and seem to be ignoring you. Also, how are they supposed to know what you need help with if you don't ask? And, finally, no one is going to want to help you if you're rude, just like how no one wants to be friends with a jerk. Community bike shops are sustained on relationships. If you want to have a good experience at a community bike shop, you need to build relationships. If you don't like to share the attention of a volunteer, or you don't want to spend time getting to know people, then go visit John Gerken at his shop on St. Claude, call Zac of Nola-Bikes mobile repair, or any of the other bicycle mechanics working at shops around the city (Bicycle Michael's, Bayou Bikes, etc.). You can pay these folks to be your bicycle repair BFF and they will devote their full attention to you (at least for the time you are in their shop spending money). You have to pay for "customer service." Plan B does not exist as an alternative to bicycle shops. Think of it more as a supplement.
Concerning donations:
  • Plan B gets a lot of donations. A lot. They might not seem too excited about your "good parts" because they have five more boxes of good parts in the back room. If you want to bring a smile to the face of the "guy in charge" then bring him parts that are already sorted. Like one box of side-pull brakes, one box of road bike seats, and another box of front derailleurs. Every box of unsorted parts means another hour of volunteer time that has to go into sorting donations instead of helping people fix bikes.
  • Some parts are junk. Some bikes are junk. Some parts are awesome. Some bikes are awesome. If you bring in a really awesome bike or some really awesome parts, then the volunteers will be a lot happier. Plan B gets a lot of junk Walmart bikes and lots of parts from junk Walmart bikes. If a person is going to take the time to build/repair a bicycle, he or she is going to want a solid frame and dependable parts. If you bring in your grandpa's 1972 Nishiki road bike that's been sitting in his garage for 15 years, that's a lot more helpful to Plan B and the New Orleans cycling community than if you drop off the Walmart Huffy your kid destroyed when he actually tried to use his "mountain bike" for mountain biking.
Things Plan B could do better (if they had more resources and volunteers):
  • Bicycle repair classes. Volunteers don't always have time to teach people everything they need to know during regular shop hours. It would be awesome if they did some classes so folks could really learn how to do particular repairs. Mobo in Cincinnati does this from time to time and it's been really successful.
  • Making a serious effort to be nice to everyone. Yeah, despite everything I just wrote, there are some people who volunteer at Plan B that could really try to be friendlier. But I still think those people add a lot to the organization. It just really sucks that their attitude pushes people away.

FINALLY - Plan B is not a store, and it not a repair service. It's a resource. While you can buy parts there and someone might be able to help you fix your bike, it really exists so the bicycle community has a place with all the resources (stands, tools, an extra set of hands) needed to do their own builds/repairs.

Plan B is what you make it. Last summer, largely due to the friendships I built with a few volunteers, it became one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon. Some of those friends are no longer volunteers, which at first made going their a little more intimidating than it used to be. But one trued wheel, a few borrowed wrenches, and a handful of conversations later, it started to feel like one of my favorite places again. I met some new volunteers I really liked and got to a chance to work with some old regulars that I never really talked to before.

Maybe you'll see me there tomorrow when I bring in my cruiser for a part replacement. Even though I'm not a volunteer, you can still ask me for help. And I might ask you to hold my bike steady while I do a repair. And I can help you flag down one of the volunteers to help you with a problem I don't know how to fix. That is what a community bike shop is like. If that's not what you're looking for, then Plan B is not the place you need to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment