Free Ride, but for Northsiders.
By Ashlee Green
Photo: Catch Makeshift at the Northside Farmers’ Market on Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m. Courtesy of Makeshift
The name of the Northside’s community bike project doesn’t need much explanation. It’s called Makeshift, which founder and Spring Hill resident Aryn Gaslowitz says brings to mind the project’s “scrappy, DIY” structure. “Shifting,” too, she says, “is a bike thing.
“Our motto is ‘making it better than it was.’”
Makeshift started back in 2016 in a garage space in Perry Hilltop: a place to share bike tools, teach basic bike maintenance skills, and offer donation-based repair services.
It then migrated to a pop-up at the Northside Farmers Market in Allegheny Commons Park around 2019. Gaslowitz calls that year the project’s “peak year” so far, because of the amount of volunteer crew members it had at the time.
“We had a bunch of people setting up a repair stand a few times a week around the Commons and helped a lot of people fix their bikes,” Gaslowitz says.
Throughout the pandemic, the crew got used to storing their equipment in a shed used by the Community Garden at Allegheny Commons, as well as in various members’ basements. [Earlier this year though,] Gaslowitz was introduced to Mitchell Schwartz, owner of Hip at the Flashlight Factory in Allegheny West, and is now operating Makeshift out of the factory’s garage space. There are talks, she says, of eventually joining forces with the Allegheny YMCA and forming a headquarters of sorts there.
It was back in 2011 or so when Gaslowitz earned her bike repair chops at Free Ride, a volunteer collective of bike enthusiasts in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze area with a trifold focus: bike donations, selling used bikes, and “DIY shop time,” according to their website. There, she staffed and taught classes and was on the council.
There is a bike shop (Bear Dog Bicycles) in the Northside now, Gaslowitz says, but for residents on a budget, Free Ride is “…really far to go to fix a broken bike.
“As a Northsider myself, I wanted to do something about that,” she says.
Makeshift aims to be its own version of Free Ride. After all, while Gaslowitz does enjoy bike mechanics, she likes teaching too—and thinks bike fixing skills are accessible ones. Her ideal shape of the project is to have a space for people to fix their own bikes and the competence to do it.
“Having more bikes on the road makes it safer for everyone,” Gaslowitz says.”Comfort on the road as bicyclists is key.” And learning basic bike repair skills is one way to move in that direction.
Catch Makeshift at the Northside Farmers Market on Fridays in Allegheny Commons Park East from 3 to 7 p.m.. Open shop hours at Hip at the Flashlight Factory (825 W. North Ave.) are for people who want to work on their own bikes or help in the shop: They are held on Mondays from 3-6 p.m.and Thursdays from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. The last Thursday of each month from 5-8 p.m. is for volunteers: It’s a monthly work party of sorts, when everyone is welcome to come “hang out, have snacks, and do fun projects together,” Gaslowitz says.
Visit www.makeshiftbikes.com for more information and to sign up for the email newsletter. You can follow the project on Facebook and Instagram too.