Eight young cyclists graduated from the first Earn-A-Bike program offered by course instructor Jeremy P. Tagliaferre at the Falmouth Bike Lab, a community-supported bicycle shop that offers maintenance and bicycle instruction to all ages free of charge.
The eight students, in grades 5 through 9, circled the John Wesley United Methodist Church parking lot with their recently earned bicycles while “Pomp and Circumstance” played over a boom box under the July sun.
“This was awesome,” was a common refrain from parents coming to pick their children up at the completion of the weeklong course.
Mr. Tagliaferre, 27, who recently moved to Falmouth, opened the Falmouth Bike Lab in May. He said so far it has been a success.
The community has donated more than 100 bicycles to the shop. Anyone can earn one of those bikes by taking either the Earn-A-Bike class or volunteering for four hours at the lab.
Tiffany A. Van Mooy of Lakeview Avenue and the mother of Milo and Miranda, who both graduated from the first Earn-A-Bike class, said that she was grateful for the program as it is a rarity for young people these days to have a place to go where they can feel independent, motivated and useful.
“Milo lost sleep because he was so excited about his project,” she said.
The weeklong course offers a variety of skills to students, including basic riding skills and maintenance skills. Each student works on a bike, their project for the duration of the week, and then become the sole owners of that bike.
Ms. Van Mooy said Milo was willing to sweep the bicycle shop floor, wake up early, and put in extra work on his recently earned bike.
A second Earn-A-Bike class is still open for participants in grades 2 through 4 for the week of July 21.
Other programs offered by the lab include an open bike shop, offered on the first Saturday of the month from 10 AM to 1 PM where volunteers are on hand to assist visitors and to teach anything from tire repair, brake-pad maintenance, how to pump air into a tire, chain repairs and other bike maintenance. Anyone from the public can bring a bike for instruction.
Every Thursday from 7 to 9 PM is volunteer night in which the public is invited to work on the bikes donated to the lab.
On Thursday last week, July 10, Mr. Tagliaferre said that approximately 15 people came, from ages 3 to 70. A grandmother earned a bike for her grandson after she had amassed 10 hours of volunteering; another man had his bicycle stolen recently and volunteered in order to obtain a retrofitted bike from the lab.
Regardless of experience, Mr. Tagliaferre said anyone is welcome to volunteer during the Thursday and Saturday programs.
He said that the Basic Bicycle Skills Class he originally offered through the Falmouth Community School did not fill up with students and he chose not to run the program. The course was offered at $79.
All programs associated with the lab are free.
Mr. Tagliaferre modeled the bike lab based on similar labs in cities across the country. The public can donate bicycles to the program that have sat around homes and have become rusted, neglected or are not able to be ridden. Some bikes that have been donated are brand new. The bicycles are either fixed for use or if beyond repair, become parts for another bicycle.
He said the lab gives children, and adults, the opportunity for alternatives to playing video games and hanging out on the streets, something that he thought Falmouth needed.
In the Earn-A-Bike program, students learn signals for turns, how to look over their shoulder for a left-hand turn, what to do at a four-way stop, and other general rules for riding on public roads.
On Thursday last week, he took all of the students on a ride to Woods Hole from the Gifford Street lab. He said the experience was eye-opening to the students as well as for him.
He said that one student was especially nervous. The young student approached an intersection in which a Peter Pan bus was approaching the opposite side of the intersection.
“That was the coolest picture; this young kid waiting at the [four-way] stop sign and then this giant bus came,” Mr. Tagliaferre said. “I told him he had the right of way, and he was like ‘no way.’ ” Mr. Tagliaferre eventually motioned for the bus to stop and the student rode through the intersection.
After the ride to Woods Hole, Mr. Tagliaferre said the young student’s riding improved, and his confidence soared. “He felt great,” he said. “He turned that nervousness into focus.”
Before Friday’s noon graduation ceremony, students reviewed what they had covered in the course. They were given a bike with a broken chain and a flat tire and assigned the task of fixing it.
They also took a short ride to a nearby, four-way intersection and students were asked to take a left turn, right turn, and then to go straight.
The bike lab operates in the basement of John Wesley Methodist Church on Gifford Street, where Mr. Tagliaferre is the director of youth ministries. It is open to all, regardless of their religion.