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Gotham Gigs: For this Citi Bike mechanic, the shop is not a man's world anymore

By HILARY POTKEWITZ

NUTS AND BOLTS: Rodriguez supervises a team of 25 mechanics that keeps the aluminum-framed bikes on the road.

Growing up on the Lower East Side, Lisa Rodriguez rode bicycles handed down from her five older siblings, which she was allowed to pedal only between Avenue C and the FDR Drive.

She still remembers her first brand-new bike, a gift from her mom when she was 15 that became her ticket to explore more of the city. She rode that purple Pacific mountain bike out of the Lillian Wald Houses and straight up the West Side of Manhattan. “I wasn’t scared at all,” she said.

Now Rodriguez is a lead mechanic for Citi Bike, helping other New Yorkers experience freedom on two wheels. With 10,000 of its 
bicycles cruising around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, the Citi Bike program takes in approximately 200 per day for repairs at its Gowanus garage.

Some arrive in rough shape—found underwater or with missing parts. “We like trying to come up with stories to figure out what happened,” said Rodriguez. “One Citi Bike came in cut in half. How does that happen?”

Rodriguez has noticed more female mechanics in bike shops around the city since joining the company three years ago. Of Citi Bike’s 106 technicians, 11 are women—up from four in 2014—according to its parent company, Motivate.

“It’s not a man’s world anymore,” she joked.

Rodriguez learned how to ride a bicycle at age 7, taught by her older brother, Anthony. “I was always following him around, and he was really into bikes and cars,” she said. She recalls afternoons spent watching him fix and build bicycles and asking him a thousand questions.

By the time she was a teenager, Rodriguez was working on bikes herself. She was the only girl among her friends who liked tinkering with gears and chains, she said.

While in high school Rodriguez entered a summer training program at Recycle-a-Bicycle, an organization that refurbishes discarded bikes, gives apprenticeships to bike mechanics and runs cycling programs at public schools. She still leads summer rides to such places as Roosevelt Island, Coney Island and Staten Island for the nonprofit’s Kids Ride Club.

“You’ll get newcomers who’ve never even left their neighborhood, and they get all excited,” said Rodriguez, who can relate.

She is now considered the mechanic in her family. Even big brother Anthony, who works for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, seeks her advice.

“The guy who used to teach me is now the one always asking me questions,” she said. “It’s great.”

 

Lisa Rodriguez

AGE: 26 BORN: Crown Heights RESIDES: Lower East Side EDUCATION: Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers; Recycle-a-Bicycle training program VELO-CITY: Rodriguez keeps four bicycles, including a minibike, in her family’s Alphabet City apartment. She said she navigates the city by bike 90% of the time and 
by subway the rest. “I save a lot 
of money that way,” she said. MORNING ZEN: Her favorite time and place to cycle is 9 a.m. around Brooklyn. “I like to see all the other people riding their bikes.” GIRL PEDAL POWER: Groups supporting female cyclists and bike mechanics include WE Bike NYC, Gear Femmes and Bicycle Habitat Women’s Cycling.

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