Last week, in a workshop in Mount Dennis, Darren Duke and his crew fixed up all six bikes that were damaged when a Lexus crashed into the Bixi station in Nathan Phillips Square.
Duke, a cheerful 40-something guy with mussed grey hair, runs the Learning Enrichment Foundation’s bicycle maintenance training program. He took the position in September, just before the LEF landed the Bixi Toronto maintenance contract. “This is probably the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. Duke comes from a family of bike fix-it experts—his brother owns Duke’s Cycle, the west-end Toronto institution.
The workshop, a large former woodworking space at the rear of the LEF offices, is packed with a couple hundred Bixis that haven’t been deployed yet. Duke’s mechanic staff consists of an in-house Bixi expert who worked on Montreal’s fleet, and four graduates from the training program he runs. Most trainees, Duke said, are referred by Ontario Works and come to the LEF to get off government assistance.
Members of Duke’s crew ride around the city in a truck, checking the condition of the bikes and bringing in those that need attention. The plan is to strip down and rebuild every bike once a year, whether it needs it or not. This is because Toronto’s Bixi system will be the first to contend with a Canadian winter (Bixi bikes in Montreal and in Ottawa are available only from spring to fall).
Max Hasenhindl, 21, finished the training program in April and was hired on as a Bixi mechanic after working jobs at a restaurant and a recycling plant. He said he chose the profession because he used to ride BMX. “I figured this was a way I could get into a BMX repair shop,” he said.
Hasenhindl reattached a wheel to a Bixi bike, and then walked over to a corner to show off a jagged pile of debris from the accident at City Hall. Among the Bixi station wreckage, he’d found a piece of the Lexus grill.