Bicycling in Brownsville pedals forward

Special to the Parade

“Put the fun between your legs” is one of the many spirited mottos of the Brownsville Bike Brigade, an energetic group of cycling citizens that is currently celebrating a renaissance of alternative transportation in their community.

With the opening of the Brownsville Bike Barn and a January Critical Mass ride of 30 cyclists, Bike Brigade founders Rosio Torres and Cat Tamez have a lot to shout about.

You may, in fact, hear them shouting on their weekly Thursday social rides, or their critical mass rides on the last Friday of the month. They have come a long way since their first organized ride of only four people in 2010.

Critical Mass is a worldwide movement that at the very least is setting a meeting time and place, generally the last Friday of the month, and riding around your city with a group of fellow cyclists.

Some critical mass groups take it one step further, and use their collective momentum to raise bicycle awareness and lobby for bike-friendly resources in their local government. The first recognized critical mass was in 1992 in San Francisco.

As the Critical Mass rides organized by the Brownsville Bike Brigade have grown from four to 40 people, the goals of these citizen activists have grown as well. The Brownsville Bike Barn, a brainchild of the Brownsville Bike Brigade, is one of their recent initiatives to come to fruition. The group of cycling volunteers partnered with the Brownsville Parks and Recreation Department and local non-profit Rio Bravo Wildlife Institute to make this cooperative effort a reality. The Bike Barn is located at Gonzalez Park in the Southmost community of Brownsville. This community resource will be a hub of education and events for cyclists of all ages, as well as a place to build your own bicycle if you do not yet have one.

It seems Rosio and Cat’s vision of “everyone in Brownsville on a bicycle” has taken a huge leap forward in 2012.

The Bike Barn is a cooperative community endeavor, and needs the support of many to be a success. Your first chance to give back and donate old bikes and tools is this week at the four-day Brownsville Bike Barn Inaugural Swap Meet. The Bike Brigade will be printing custom screen print t-shirts for donations.

The Brownsville Bike Barn Inaugural Swap Meet, Brownsville Bike Barn at Gonzalez Park will be held at 24 Tony Gonzalez Dr. on Thursday, Feb. 23 from 4-7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24 from 4-7 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 25 from 8-11 a.m.

Suggested donation items are bike stands, used bicycles and bike parts; helmets, gloves and apparel. Tools such as grease, chain tool, Allen keys, wire cutters, pedal wrench, hacksaw, nuts/bolts (or headset press), adjustable wrench, bottom bracket tool, screw driver, workbench, welding equipment and pipe benders are also suggested.

Keep up with the Brownsville Bike Brigade on Facebook, Rio Bravo Wildlife Institute, and the Brownsville Parks and Recreation Department for upcoming bicycle events, such as Critical Mass and the Second Annual Earth Day Bicycle Parade.

General information for Bike Brigade rides can be found by calling (956) 508-3BEE.

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