News | Non-males get own shift at the Flat

Interactive sessions encourage and empower budding bike mechanics

Women and transgender cyclists can have The Flat – a student-run bike collective located in Shatner – all to themselves for 3 hours on Sunday afternoons.

Julianna Rubbins-Breen, the member of The Flat who is coordinating the project, pointed to an under-representation of female and transgender individuals involved in bike repair.

“By creating a shift where those people traditionally marginalized from bike culture can access knowledge and gain skills, we hope to challenge the gender imbalance, and have more women and [transgender] involvement at all levels,” she said.

The goal of The Flat is to give McGill students and members of the community a safe and accessible place to learn how to fix their bicycles. There are several shifts every week when anyone can learn the basics of bike repair in The Flat’s space in the Shatner basement.

While many women and transgender people are collective members, volunteers, and users of the space, designated “mechanics” are frequently male. This means that many participants are likely to be taught by men.

“I think that the routine exchange of knowledge with males doing the teaching, and women and trans people learning helps to reinforce gender norms, which construct the male as active and the woman as passive,” she noted. “Essentially, this creates a gender divide and imbalance, which makes it even harder for women or trans people to feel comfortable and validated in many bike collectives or shops.”

Rubbins-Breen emphasized that The Flat’s activities are open to everyone.

“In no way does starting a women and trans shift necessarily mean that other shifts will become more male dominated; we are committed to addressing gender imbalances during all shift hours,” she said.

“To stop perpetuating a gendered divide within bike communities and cultures we need not only to acknowledge and address our own behaviours but also provide an opportunity for those people who are excluded and marginalized to access that knowledge in an un-intimidating, non-hierarchical space.”

The shift aims not just to increase the number of female and transgender bike mechanics at The Flat, but also to help bolster their presence within the cycling community in general.

In the future, The Flat also hopes to partner with Concordia’s co-op, Right to Move, to set up weekly bike repair workshops targeting women and transgender individuals. Rubbins-Breen noted that both co-ops have struggled with low attendance at events designed specifically for women and transgender bicyclists. Still, The Flat is committed to getting the shift off the ground.

“We’re trying to be especially active in getting the word out there,” Rubbins-Breen said.

The Flat’s next women and transgender shift will take place Sunday November 16 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m, in room B02 of the Shatner Building. For more information email theflat.bikecollective@gmail.com or visit theflat.wordpress.com.


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