She’s not in a bubble; she’s on a bicycle

Beth Wacks, 31, grew up in Pikesville. After attending St. Mary's College of Maryland, Wacks lived in New York City, Berkeley, Calif., and Providence, R.I., while "looking around" for what she wanted to do in life.

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Published June 3, 2007 by The Baltimore Sun 
By Sloane Brown 

Beth Wacks, 31, grew up in Pikesville. After attending St. Mary's College of Maryland, Wacks lived in New York City, Berkeley, Calif., and Providence, R.I., while "looking around" for what she wanted to do in life. She found it in Providence at a program called Recycle a Bicycle, where she took a class in repairing bicycles. After moving back to Baltimore, Wacks organized the similar Velocipede Bike Project. It provides affordable transportation for people by training them to repair donated bicycles for themselves and allows them to volunteer in exchange for bike parts and hands-on assistance. Wacks, who has never owned a car, lives in the Abell neighborhood of the city. She is single, has two roommates and a "very large cat" named Marvin.

There's a saying that converts are always the biggest zealots. Since you only got into bicycling in your 20s, do you think that saying applies to you?

I guess you could consider me a zealot. I don't like putting "zealot" next to my name, but I guess you could. I think I'm more interested in the fabric of the city being more bicycle-friendly, than [in] bicycles themselves. I mean, I love bicycles. I think they're beautiful and amazing machines. I really appreciate a beautiful bicycle. But, for me, it's more about using a bicycle to get around town rather than a car or something that makes the city dirty. I'm interested in the potential of a bicycle to foster community, because when you're out on a bicycle, you're out in the world. Not in a little bubble with the window rolled up.

I've noticed something interesting. More often than not, you use the word "bicycle" rather than "bike."

Hmmm. Well, sometimes if you say "bike," people think motorcycle. Bicycle has a nice rhythm to the word.

It seems you operate on a sensory level.

Yes. I think that's true. That's probably why I'm attracted to the bicycle. It's very sensory. It's all about the wind in your hair. Feeling the elements. Feeling your body working.

In the small amount of down time that you have, how do you spend it?

I'm in a band, Presto Magente. … We play at the Current Gallery a lot. We're sort of the Current Gallery's house band. … We switch instruments a lot. But I've been playing a lot of bass lately. … I like to cook. … I make a mean pasta sauce. … I don't watch TV a lot. Maybe a movie sometimes. But, I don't have cable. Sometimes I'll rent a series. I really like all those magic realism TV shows, like HBO's Carnivale.

Any words you live by?

Break out of your bubble. That's one that's been resonating for me lately.