Hayley Joyes from RedBull visited The Bristol Bike Project last month to find out how we’re empowering women through bicycles. Here’s what she wrote…
Read the story of the community project’s Women’s Night workshop, as told by people at the heart of it.
The Bristol Bike Project has been providing access to cycling workshops and upcycled bikes since 2008.
From its Stokes Croft base, at the vibrant Hamilton House warehouse complex, the Bike Project works across a number of schemes within Bristol. Each one uses cycling and bike maintenance as a conduit for rehabilitation. There are group workshops that cater for those affected by social isolation and mental health issues, while their ‘Freedom of Movement Scheme‘ offers women from marginalised and underprivileged backgrounds free bikes and training.
On Mondays in their workshop, the BPP run a Women’s Night. It’s an open forum where female bike mechanics come together to share skills and cycling knowledge with women and those who identify as women looking to fix and service their bikes. The concept is based around using knowledge to empower and encourage confidence and independence. As one drop-in, Anna, explains: “I’ve spent a lot of money going to bike shops and then got very disillusioned. I didn’t realise there was other stuff going on. I like the idea of women helping women. It’s nice.”
Meet some more of the people behind the BBP’s Women’s Night…
“I’m a coordinator and volunteer at the Bristol Bike Project – I’ve been part of it for a year. I work three days as a structural engineer and two days-a-week as a part time as a bike mechanic.
“I came here to do the two-day intensive maintenance course because I bought a bike that was in a bad state. I was tired of being patronised at bike shops and wanted to learn to do it myself. When I did the course here I absolutely loved it and wanted to learn more.
“Monday night is women-only and I love it. I guess it’s the atmosphere and the community. I have become really good friends with these girls and – I know it sounds cheesy, but – it’s completely changed my outlook on Bristol.”
“I have been in Bristol for three years now. At the moment I’m not working and I’m in drug and alcohol recovery. Cycling has completely changed my world. I came into recovery and I didn’t know Bristol at all. I was riding around on buses and I thought ‘this is ridiculous’. Cycling has given me confidence and a sense of freedom and independence. I love my bike.
“I found out about the Bristol Bike Project through word of mouth and other people who have been part of the project. It’s affordable and I intend on learning additional skills.”
Karen, Westbury Park
“I’m a volunteer and I’ve been coming here for two years. I find the Women’s Night team are very kind and they explain things and they won’t let you go away with your bike not safe. I just find it a really nice atmosphere. As one of the volunteers, I’m one of the older ones, but it’s quite nice to have another group of people who are pretty much my daughter’s age and see the world from their point of view.
“My daughters both live abroad and I don’t see them as often as I would like. It’s not just the Monday night; it’s the mechanics of everyday life.”
“It’s my first time here. I had a few issues with my bike and I’ve recently moved to Bristol. In my experience [of] going into a bike shop, I always feel quite intimidated and judged on not knowing how to do certain things. Sometimes I feel like a bit of an idiot, even though, if I put my mind to it and tried to work it out, I’m sure I could.
“I love cycling. I see it as a really good way to deal with anxiety. If I get on my bike I feel immediately better and calm. Having that cycle in the morning makes me feel ready for the day. I think there is a nice community around cycling and it’s good for the environment and on a personal level it just makes me feel better.”
“I’m a coordinator at Women’s Night and I assist with the maintenance courses here at the Bristol Bike Project. I’ve been here over two years now. I love the way it’s run here as a cooperative; they value everyone’s opinions and most other places you wouldn’t get that.
“Bike mechanics was something I wanted to learn and I came to one of the Women’s Nights to fix my bike, everyone was really nice so I came back. A lot of bike places you go to it’s completely unaffordable, very shiny and lycra-y. It widens the world of cycling a lot.”