“We just wanted do to something!” says Ingibjörg Ingvarsdóttir, one of the four people who run the alternative bike repair shop Ræbbblarnir (punxs) at Ásvallagata 48 in West Reykjavík. The label “shop” really does not do the enterprise justice since the service is free, although donations are welcome. “The idea was born 2 years ago when some of us visited the punk K-Town festival in Copenhagen. Every time the festival is held there is a bike repair shop and that’s where the idea comes from”, says Viktor Orri Dietersson Pollitz. Since then a loosely defined group of 10-15 people belonged to the Reykjavik Bike Brigade, swapping tips on everything bike related and riding free together.
Now the name has changed to Ræbbblarnir (the three b’s stolen from the legendary punk group Fræbbblarnir) and shop has been set up in a rented garage in a quiet neighbourhood. Early this summer Ræbbblarnir called for donations in the form of bikes people no longer wanted and needed. The response was big and now they have a sizable stash of old bikes of any kind. “We want people to realize it’s easy to fix a bike – you don’t have to take it to a repair shop or buy a new one”, says Ægir Freyr Birgisson. “But this isn’t a repair service, it’s a place where you can learn how to fix your bike and get the tools, help and space needed”. The municipal authorities provide the four with pay during the summer months through the program “Creative Summer Jobs” and a partnership with Íslenski Fjallahjólaklúbburinn (the Icelandic mountain bike club) is in the works.
“This is about recycling and using old things. Someone’s piece of trash can be valuable to somebody else”, says Ægir. At the garage, every piece of equipment needed to fix a bicycle is available: wrenches and screwdrivers, nuts and bolts, a welding gun and plenty of old spare parts, salvaged from donated bikes. But the Ræbbblarnir are not just about bikes. Early this month they put up a daytime punk show in the garden next to the garage. “The neighbours complained a bit… said it was like a 5 on the Richter scale earthquake”, says Ingibjörg laughing. “But we’ll do it again!”.
Other bike related events are on the agenda: Viktor really wants to have a demolition derby style bike-war competition and there is a Critical Mass event in the pipes. Critical Mass events are known in other countries but have never taken place in Iceland. It is a day when self-propelled commuters of any kind take to the streets en masse – forcing cars and motorbikes to acknowledge their existence under the slogan “We Are Traffic”. The first Critical Mass took place in San Francisco in 1992 and has been spreading throughout the world since.
The idea behind Ræbbblarnir is that there are no customers or clients, only people participating. Anybody can bring their bike over and repair it or get help repairing it. One of the organization’s objectives is to raise awareness about the environment, pollution and recycling. “Anybody can do anything here – there is no elitism”, says Ægir. “And it should be fun… and it will be!” he adds.
The garage is open this summer every working day from 10 to 5 at Ásvallagata 48. If you own an old bike which you’d like to donate to the project, contact Ræbbblarnir and they will pick it up from you. As any cool kid in the world, the bike-gang has a Myspace presence, www.myspace.com/raebbblarnir and the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
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