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Thomas Denesha is repairing a customer's bike at Uptown 19th Street BART Bike Station

Oakland at Work: Free bike parking

on December 10, 2015

Thomas Denesha pulls up a purple bike on a rack and proceeds to take the front wheel off. The helmet is still attached to the handlebar. Its owner dropped it off at Uptown 19th Street BART Bike Station Friday morning, knowing his bike will be well taken care of while he goes to work.

“He parks here every day and noticed some problems with his shifter,” said Denesha, who works there.

The bike is now dismantled into two parts. The main body is resting on the rack while the front wheel is on Denesha’s workbench. He takes a look at the wheel, gives it a good spin, and grabs the tools he needs to repair the shifter. Soon after, he takes the wheel off the workbench and squeezes it tight between his hands and his chest.

“It will be done by the time he comes back from work,” Denesha said.

The 19th Street station is one of four locations in the Bay Area that offers free parking services, repairs, and a small retail section for their customers. All the bike station locations are sponsored by the City of Oakland, bridge toll funds, and BART, allowing 130 customers to park at the shop located right in front of the BART station. The store opened in February, and has been a hit among members of the bike community.

Bike Station stands out on the block with its bright colors. A big green flag with a white bike in the center hangs prominently outside the store. Inside, the walls are bright green, contrasting pleasantly with the light linoleum floors, and wooden ceilings. Customers come in one by one, dropping off their bikes for the day.

“My favorite time of the day is to come here,” said Michelle Quinn, a columnist at the San Jose Mercury News and a Bike Station customer since day one. “The guys are so nice.”

Denesha welcomes all his customers with a smile, while his dog, Pickles, a three-year-old Scottish Terrier, wanders around the store, dressed up in a black shirt with a white skull on the back side.

“He’s the star,” Denesha said. “When customers write reviews, they mention the dog more than us.”

Denesha went to college in Santa Cruz, before moving to Chicago to work in a bike shop co-op. He then moved to Berkeley to work in one of the Bike Stations’ stores. He opened up the 19th Street store in Oakland with a co-worker from the Berkeley location.

Wearing a Chicago Bulls hat, round glasses with thick black frames, and a three-day old beard, he blends into the relaxed atmosphere of the shop with its bumping rock music playing in the background. The fingernails on Denesha’s left hand are painted with black and white sparkling nail polish. He says the color mixes in well when he gets his hands dirty at work.

“I am right-handed so I only did one side,” Denesha said. “I also ran out of time.”

Denesha is still working on the purple bike. He found another problem. The derailleur’s cable is broken. He takes it off the bike and cuts a new one from the cable box.

It’s now 10:40 a.m. and it’s very quiet in the store. All of the customers are gone. The parking spots are almost full.

“It’s going to slow down for a bit,” Denesha said.

He takes a small screwdriver and inserts it on both ends of the new cable. Pickles brings his toy out, but seems too tired to play. He lies down in the sun in the retail section of the store. The next wave of customers won’t come until later that night when they arrive to pick up their rides.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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