Belmont Launches Fix It Clinic: February 9 (Also: fixers needed!)

Did your hair dryer suddenly stop working? Clock (or clock radio) on the fritz? Smart phone acting up? Don’t rush out to buy a replacement and definitely don’t toss that old electronic stuff in the trash (and therefore in a landfill)! That’s because Belmont will hold its first ever Fix-It Clinic on February 9th at the Belmont Public Library!

The clinic will take place from 1PM to 4PM in the community room downstairs. We’ll have fix-it coaches there who can help you repair everything from furniture and clothing to clocks, household appliances (toasters, lamps, etc.) to electronics like smart phones and computers. While drop-ins are welcome, you can do organizers and coaches a favor by registering in advance using this form and letting them know what you will be bringing with you to be fixed.

Just as important: if you have repair skills, we need your steady hands and tools to be a fix-it coach at our event. You can sign up to be one of our fix it coaches using this form.

A sign outside a July Fix It Clinic at Jamaica Plain Public Library in Boston. Fix It Clinics are grass roots organization that holds clinics across the country.

I worked with Terese Hammerle at Sustainable Belmont and Peter Struzziero at Belmont Public Library to arrange this clinic. This, after I attended a similar clinic at the Jamaica Plain library over the summer at the suggestion of Nathan Proctor at MassPIRG who is doing amazing work on promoting re-use and repair.

I can say: they’re amazing events that teach what amounts to lost arts in the U.S.: self sufficiency, frugality, ingenuity. At the event I attended, JP residents brought in everything from broken chairs and lamps to an air conditioner, vintage clock – even an electric toothbrush.

A repair coach works with a couple to repair a vintage clock at the July Fix-it clinic in JP. Belmont will host its first clinic of this type on February 9th.

As The Washington Post recently noted, Fix-It Clinics and Repair Cafes are part of a grassroots movement that – broadly stated – is pushing back against a “single use,” disposable culture. Even though Yankee ingenuity and frugality helped define our country (and especially New England) somehow the last 50 years has trained us all to think things like “Its probably cheaper to just replace it!” The environmental costs of doing that are huge, as are the economic costs to consumers. As folks like Kyle Wiens at the online repair site has noted: companies like Apple have worked hard to monopolize repairs of their devices, which is why they can charge you hundreds of dollars to replace broken parts that may only cost them pennies. Better yet: they can cajole you to just replace the phone with the broken $1 capacitor…a $700 or $800 “upgrade.” You don’t have to be an economist to recognize that that’s a bad deal for consumers. But, absent the ability to understand and fix devices ourselves, we’re really at the mercy of the “geniuses” at the “Genius Bar”

Fix it clinics and other events of that type are designed to short circuit this disposable culture and, in the process, empower consumers and save our environment from the scourge of e-waste and plastics. There’s already evidence that its working: Apple’s Tim Cook noted recently that iPhone sales are down because…wait for it…more people are fixing and servicing their phones. That may be bad news in the short term for Apple, but its good news for everyone else.

So come down to Belmont’s first ever Fix It Clinic on February 9th. Bring your broken stuff, or your repair know how, or some combination of those things and take part in an amazing community event.

See you there!


Twelve Ways of Looking at a Bike Lane

The Boston Globe reported this week that biking advocates are pushing State transportation officials to maintain a physically separate bike lane over the Longfellow Bridge during the Winter. The refurbished bridge, which opened to traffic this Summer, sports a separate bike lane protected by what are known by transit geeks as “delineator posts” or “flex posts.” They’re flexible, plastic posts that keep cars at a distance, but don’t constitute an actual permanent, physical barrier for cyclists.

Bike Lane - Longfellow Bridge

Flex posts separating cyclists from cars on the refurbished Longfellow Bridge may be going away for the Winter. Cyclists aren’t happy. What are some other options?

The problem? The plastic posts will get torn up and otherwise mess with snow plows once the first real snowfall comes. That’s why Mass DOT said that is planning to take them up over the winter. Doing so will make it easier to clear snow from the bridge. Needless to say, it will also leave cyclists exposed in icy, snowy conditions that are among the least safe cyclists face. Sure, there are fewer cyclists over the Winter months – but that’s small comfort to the many Boston area folks who commute by bike year round. The Boston Cyclists Union estimates that around 40% of those who commute by bike do it year ’round.

It’s no surprise that cyclists aren’t crazy about this “solution” and want the Mass DOT to leave the flexposts in place and use a smaller plow to clear the bike lane and sidewalk.

As I see it, one problem is the flex posts themselves, which are not durable and are removable. They posit the physically separate bike lane as something that’s “nice to have,” but that can be taken away as a concession to ‘business as usual’ (cars, snow plows) which is what’s being done here.

What are some other options for separating cyclists from cars in addition to the flex posts? People for bikes put together a nice infographic, which I’ve put turned into a slide show. It illustrates the many different options for separating bikes from traffic, then grades them on aesthetics, cost and durability. As Belmont looks to make our streets more welcoming to non-car transportation (pedestrians, cyclists, etc.) these are worth considering for our main thoroughfares where, too often, pedestrians, cyclists and cars are tossed together without proper separation and protection from vehicles!

A Poll: How Technology Could Help Town Government Serve Us Better

Hey Blogging Belmont readers and ‘Happy Monday’! I’m writing you in my capacity as the Chairman of Belmont’s IT Advisory Committee and asking you a big favor: five minutes of your time to take this important survey, which assesses how¬† Belmont residents are engaging with the work of both elected and appointed committees in our town government.

Some background: it is the job of ITAC to provide strategic planning and advising functions to the Town’s departments and committees. As such, we are exploring ways in which Belmont town committees and the great work they do can be made more accessible to you, as residents. Before we can make recommendations about that, however, we need to understand how most Belmontonians interact with Town Government – how you learn about goings on in Town, whether you attend local government meetings (and how often), how you consume the output of Town committees (if at all).

We’re also interested in learning about how you consume information, attend meetings, etc. in your personal and work life and whether you might welcome or be comfortable with new avenues by which Belmont committees can interact with residents.

Please take five minutes (and it won’t take more than that) to fill out this survey. Your responses will go into our report to the Board of Selectmen, School Committee and Library Board of Trustees.

Again: you can use this link to take the survey.