This month’s guest blog comes from blogger and photographer Richard Anders, whose cycle 365 project aims to create the big picture of the cycling community across the UK from a diversity of photographic images.
Last week, Richard stopped off at The Bristol Bike Project for a visit. Here’s what he had to say…
Now in its 9th year, The Bristol Bike Project was conceived as a community bike project which recognised the importance of disadvantaged and marginalised people to be independently mobile in The City. Many of these people are isolated due to the cost of car ownership and (even) public transport being unaffordable.
During those 9 years, The Project has become a Community Interest Company and has grown into generous sized workshops plus sales space, while its portfolio of offerings has expanded to cover the many pressing social and wellbeing needs of The Community. They partner with over 50 organisations in and around Bristol in order to ensure their services are available to those whose need is greatest. Bristol Bike Project also offers other opportunities to get involved through volunteering, a weekly bike kitchen, a women’s night and various maintenance courses.
The Bike Kitchen occupies a large part of the BBP floor space. It is a drop-in workshop, for members of the public to use the fully equipped workshop which also offers a wide range of new and used parts for sale. There is an experienced mechanic on hand to lend limited advice and guidance. Those needing more learning can enrol on the various Saturday Maintenance Courses.
The weekly women’s night invites women to bring their bike to fix, clean or just do a check over. A sharing of knowledge and skills in a friendly, informal atmosphere with volunteers on hand to assist with learning and fixing, is what it’s about. To be able to fix your own bike and not to have to rely on favours or a relatively expensive bike shop is empowering and provides encouragement for women to take up cycling.
Last herein, but the most important part of The Bristol Bike Project, is ‘Earn a Bike’ scheme. This comprises three, hour long, one-to-one workshop sessions, working with marginalised people from within the community who need affordable and sustainable transport for social and employment mobility. Individuals work with a mechanic to refurbish a bike, donated to them by The Bristol Bike Project, learning basic mechanical skills in the process. Rather than the bike being a handout, the scheme builds empowerment and self-reliance, and fosters a bond between the recipient and their bicycle.
Since 2009, over 1500 bikes have been earned from the project in this way. Thereafter, Bike Earner owners can keep things running smoothly by dropping in at a weekly Fix-a-Bike session, which further encourages a long term relationship with their bike. Bike Earners are typically referred to The Earn a Bike Scheme by one of the ‘people in need’ organisations in and around Bristol but individuals can also refer themselves.
Thanks to Krysia at BBP who hosted me during my visit. Enthusiastic and proud of The Project’s social and community achievements, she was also delighted to mention how several of the volunteer mechanics progress to become members of The Project’s ‘Co-operative’ giving them a voice in the shaping of BBP’s future. I stayed longer than I had allowed for, was plied with tea and mince pie, and spent money in support of The Project on a good looking Project T Shirt, a casquette, and a copy of the final ever edition of The Boneshaker (book-like) Magazine, produced by BBP co founder James who writes in the magazine’s final editorial:
“After more than 8 years and 1500 pages of freedom, friendship and adventure, of politics and poetry, ink and dreams, we’re ready to move onto something new……The Boneshaker name, its intentions and the wonderful community that’s grown around it will live on. Thank you to everyone who’s been involved, sharing stories and pictures, riding with us, inspiring us, sharing our enthusiasm for the mystic beauty of life on two wheels.”
Thankfully, with refurbished bikes selling like hot mince pies, continued donations of bikes and funds, and my purchases, The Bristol Bike Project surely has many more years of good work to come.