by Kathryn Fentress
Patrick Martin, 49, moved here from the east coast in 1990. He works at A-1 Builders as a project manager. His 20 year old daughter attends Evergreen College. He was responsible for the design and construction of the newly built Bike Kiosk at 3310 Northwest Avenue in front of A-1 Builders.
Kathryn: Where did the vision came from for the bike kiosk?
Patrick: Last September I helped my daughter move to Olympia for her second year of college. Biking is very popular on campus there, and in the courtyard of her dorm we noticed a cylinder for hanging a bike and a pump for the tires. After dropping her off, I began to think of building a kind of bike station. So I spent time learning some new software and did some sketches, and bounced my ideas off the other staff. Then Rick Dubrow, president of A-1, reached out to some of his contacts in the community for assistance and we began receiving donations. Hoagland Pharmacy gave us a substantial donation at the start. So then I put together a budget of costs and Rick sent out requests for time or materials or donations to former clients and vendors of A-1. We actually got almost everything we needed donated. Then last spring we spent some weekends constructing the kiosk with volunteer help. A-1 absorbed the remaining costs. Now we are looking at what the actual cost would be, the cost to hire the people to do welding, carpentry, etc., and to work up a budget for pitching the idea to build maybe five or six of these at major bike portals around town.
So your vision became a real community project with many builders and donators?
Yes, many people donated small amounts of $50 or more. Several more came out for the construction. There is a little lending library box on the back and a woman came by one day and stocked the shelves with books. This could be a project for some of the neighborhood organizations.
Have there been and problems with vandalism or stealing?
I usually have interesting conversations with people in the neighborhood; there are lots of homeless and low income housing folks. People stop and always ask why would you do this when it is likely it will be destroyed? I think that this concern is overrated. The only real loss so far is a large biking book that was worth about $25. Someone took that book and likely pawned it. Now we have two book copies on a chain and this seems to be working.
The head of the bike pump broke early on, probably by accident, and we are working with the manufacturer to develop a better design. Sometimes folks come by and ask for help with their bike or equipment. I really love that, helping people with their bikes. We finally put out a smoke bucket for cigarette stubs. So far there has been no graffiti. We still have one more part to add to the concrete to provide stability for holding the bike rigid. Another bike rack is on its way for bike parking, mostly for the staff who bike to work at least part of the week. Rick rides every day rain or shine and I do as well.
How did you first get interested in biking?
In my 20s and into early 30s I worked mostly seasonally guiding and teaching sailing, hiking, and boating. I worked at Knowles and Outward Bound. After I moved out here, I taught wilderness skills courses at Huxley College for four years in the Environmental Studies Program. Then I had a little kid and needed to change my lifestyle to be more of a parent. I worked at Alpine Institute for a while. Then I changed direction totally and learned woodworking. I spent my 30s building stuff. Now I build systems, organize projects, and teach team building and communication skills. I like to ride my bike because I like to be outside. A lot of people question my riding 3-4 hours every day back and forth to work rain or shine, but I like it because doing it on regular basis shapes my thought process. I like to feel able and strong physically and mentally. I work at an awesome work place with a healthy family, but it still blows to have to go to work almost every day of the week. These rides are compressed adventures for me and allow me to be more pliable and able to work this schedule.
Do you miss the hands-on construction work?
Not really. Sometimes the things we love can turn into things we do for the money. I first built a small cabin and then built some for other folks. I found that eventually the joy of the process went away and then I needed to move on to something new. So now I only build things for people I like and who have no worries about the money. Most recently I have been building outdoor gear which is very different from wood. It is a three dimensional challenge. I am planning some long trips that will include riding on gravel roads or single tracks and other pathways. So the gear has to be set up differently to help the rider maintain balance. I am experimenting with different fabrics to house the equipment in a bag on the handle bars and smaller bags on the inner frame.
This bike project supports a reduction of carbon emissions, and it seems healthy for our bodies.
Is this project a political one for you?
I am not particularly political. I haven’t voted in a decade. I don’t vote because the system is broken and deeply flawed. Voting seems to me a support, even though probably an insignificant one, of the system. Most people don’t know what is really going on and many of us have unfounded premises based on unreliable sources of information. Good information is available but we have to work hard to get that. Most of the information readily available seems like chatter.
What is the next step with the bike kiosk project?
I personally do not want to build a bunch of bike kiosks, but to design the project for the first time and then address how to make more and how to get the people to support the idea is interesting to me. I really like teaching, especially when people are making stuff, because the learning has a connection to a different part of their head or heart. Conversations internally or externally with other people are really stimulating while doing hands-on projects.
What is in your near future?
I am planning to stay with A-1 for a while. Even though we are all building stuff, we still have our personalities. My job is to help us have good time, get things done, be nice to each other and make some money along the way. We are also exploring the idea of shifting into a co-op model for the business and it would be fun to see how we might do things differently.
What advice would you offer to our readers?
In terms of the bike project, I would like to see folks maintain their involvement. I would like to see $100,000 earmarked for this on the table. I am excited to set up the budget and then plan for and support more kiosks. In more general terms, I find people who take risks, are curious, are willing to do and redo a project are the most interesting, alive people I know. I think we should look for ways to encourage others to take risks, to follow the creative process, and to actively engage with art and life.
Thank you Patrick for your dedication to your work environment and to our larger community environment.