‘Tea & Tinkering’: A film about our Social Cycle programme

Individuals who are socially isolated are between two and five times more likely than those who have strong social ties to die prematurely‘. Fair Society Healthy Lives, Marmot Review 2010

We are pleased to share with you the latest film to be made about The Bristol Bike Project by our friends at Touchpaper Productions.

‘Tea & Tinkering’ is a short film about our Social Cycle programme, a weekly workshop for adults experiencing social isolation.

The programme aims to tackle social isolation by providing the space for people to come together in a relaxed, friendly, nonjudgmental environment fixing up bikes that go towards our Earn-a-Bike programmes. Social isolation and loneliness is on the rise, effecting over 9 million people across the UK, according to The Red Cross. Taken alongside the ongoing cuts to mental health services, providing this sort of space is an increasingly important part of what we do here at the project.

If you would like more information about the programme or the project, please contact us at hello@thebristolbikeproject.org.


Bristol cyclists pedal the refugee trail to help asylum-seekers get out on two wheels

Bristol cycling enthusiasts, Zoe and Tim, are on an adventure to Istanbul, raising money for The Bristol Bike Project which helps get refugees and asylum-seekers out on two wheels!

Last month, Zoe and Tim set off from Bristol on their epic cycling adventure through Europe to the closest border of Asia – Istanbul. They aim to reach their destination in 10 weeks, camping along the way as much as possible.

This has been our dream for such a long time’ said Zoe Lawrence, ‘in fact, we were never quite sure we’d actually set off… but with some luck, rash decisions and spreadsheet planning we made it happen!

A large portion of their cycling route follows a similar trail to that taken by refugees crossing Europe. Having heard about the work The Bristol Bike Project does to get refugees and asylum-seekers out on two wheels, Zoe and Tim decided this would be a great opportunity to raise some money for the community project.

The Bristol Bike Project takes donations of unwanted bikes, repairs and rehomes them with asylum-seekers and other marginalised people within our community through their Earn-a-Bike programmes.

Asylum-seekers receive very little support when they arrive in this country’, said Krysia, coordinator at The Bristol Bike Project, ‘they are not allowed to work and have to rely on state support – just £5 a day to live on. Having a means of affordable and sustainable transport is a lifeline for them.

We’re delighted and humbled that Zoe and Tim have chosen to dedicate their ride to raising money for our Earn-a-Bike programmes. Our project is driven by volunteers, but it costs money to run the workshops and give the donated bikes the overhaul they need with new parts and accessories to ensure they are safe to ride.

Zoe and Tim are making great progress with their cycling – with the Greek border in sight they have just 11 days left and just under 300 miles to go to Istanbul. But they need your help to reach their fundraising target!

Krysia continued, ‘We would encourage anyone who can spare a few pounds to head to their fundraising page and donate. Let’s make sure all their hard work and pedal power is justly rewarded by helping them smash their fundraising target!

Can you give Zoe and Tim a boost for the final leg of their journey? The Bristol Bike Project are offering one of their illustrious Bikes Without Barriers t-shirts to the most generous donor and the donor who takes them over their £500 target!


Have you got thighs of steel?!

Thighs of steel is a collective of cyclists who cycle really far and for good reason. For the last two years they have cycled from London to Athens raising money for Khora, a refugee community centre in Athens. This July they’ll be taking to the roads of Eastern Europe as they head to Athens again…the cycle takes 7 weeks, with cyclists signing up for a week of their choice.

Khora has created a community of all nationalities, ages and genders bringing together and celebrating different cultures, over the last few years it has provided food, education, child care, music lessons, information points, legal support and much more.

How are your thighs feeling now? They have a few spaces left  for week one!
London-Brussels
22nd-28th July
400km

Setting off from London through Kent and down to the east coast, across to France and east to Brussels, it is set to be a beautiful ride and is open for a not-so-serious cyclist!

For more information get in contact

hello@thighsofsteel.com


Co-operate: This is how your city grows…

We love this short film celebrating co-ops by Blake House Filmmakers Cooperative and Co-operatives UK, set to a beautiful poem, Co-operate, by Isaiah Hull. Full transcript provided below.

We’re proud to be featured alongside many amazing UK Co-ops including our local friends The Bristol CableCafe KinoCentrespace Gallery and Bristol Co-operative Gym!

Here’s our favourite line…

This is how your city grows… Your city’s limbs aren’t lopsided. They yearn to grow in equal length and not through competition but co-operation of each, the people’s strength.” 

Co-operate by Isaiah Hull

Like a smile owned by its teeth,
Like a kiss sold to yourself,
This is how your city grows.

Like the tender limbs of trees
Let our timber lenders breathe in,
This is how your city grows.

From hand to hand, a relay sport
How we shape thought into word,
Every awe we build from Earth
As if the rain falls
In reverse to feed the clouds.

Like a self-healing heart
Your city grows impossible,
This commonopolis

Not made of steel
But give and take,
Count your currency in character
Instead of money that your minutes make

here

Your value doesn’t need to lie.

Your city’s limbs aren’t lopsided
They yearn to grow in equal length
Not through competition
But cooperation of each the people’s strength.


Bike to Bestival – donate and dance!

On 1 August, 30 lovely Bristol dwellers will be cycling on their merry way from Bristol to Bestival, helping the festival reduce their carbon footprint and raising money for our Earn-a-Bike programme.

We’re stoked to have been chosen as the community project for this ride, which will see at least £6,000 raised for our core community work to get marginalised people from across Bristol out on two wheels.

The riders will pedal 100 miles over 2 days as riders head for the beautiful Lulworth Estate in Dorset, where the festival is held.

Those signed up have already begun their fundraising efforts, including four fabulous dancers – Emily, Doug, Bella and Sarah – who are hosting a fundraising event at the Southbank Club from 3pm on 15th July. Tickets for the event are a suggested minimum donation of £5 and in return you will get a free beginners lindy hop taster class taught by Bristol Swing Riot‘s very own Sam Dobbie. There will also be a selection of homemade delicious cakes and craft beer, tea, coffee and soft drinks available for you to buy.

You can see how all the other lovely riders are doing with their fundraising on the Bike to Bestival page, and make sure you head to their individual pages to offer your support and donate what you can!

There are still a few places left on this ride so if you fancy a bit of an adventure this summer which will help get marginalised people from across Bristol out on two wheels, sign up here!

⬇ Check out this awesome video promoting the fundraiser on 15 July ⬇


In the news! How bike mechanics in St Paul’s have been helping refugees and people recovering from addiction

This article was written by Alex Seabrook and published in The Bristol Post on 10 June

A group of bike mechanics in St Paul’s have been helping refugees, people on probation, and those recovering from addiction to fix up old bikes.

For around three hours work, people can earn their own bike with the help of volunteer mechanics showing them the skills needed to refurbish unwanted bikes.

The Earn-A-Bike scheme started in 2009 at the Bristol Bike Project, based round the back of Hamilton House off City Road in St Paul’s. Since then more than 1,500 bikes have been earned from the project, and the scheme has a two to three week waiting list.

Henry Godfrey, 43, is a workshop coordinator for the scheme. He said: “I was drawn to this because it welcomes everybody from all walks of life, and is so welcoming to so many different kinds of people.

“It’s great to see refugees working alongside volunteers, rather than being in just a bureaucratic organisation. It’s valuable to help them to get where they need to go, to appointments, to see friends and improve their social life, and travel under their own steam. Rather than being in a strange city, they can find their own way through it and it becomes their own city.”

Every Thursday there are five one-to-one sessions. The scheme is open to people who are unemployed, refugees or asylum seekers, those with ongoing debilitating health problems, learning difficulties, in sheltered housing, undergoing a recovery programme, and on probation.

More than 50 organisations in and around Bristol work with the scheme to refer people to earn a bike, including Bristol Refugee Rights, Bristol Drugs Project, Second Step, Unseen, and the Big Issue.

Tesfanem, a refugee from Eritrea, said: “I like it here, it’s very nice, everybody is very helpful, that’s why I’m happy.”

Ali, a refugee from Iran, said: “It’s a good place. My bike was stolen two weeks ago but now I have got another one from here. It makes such a difference to have a bike.”

No previous experience in fixing bikes is needed for the scheme, and there is an emphasis on empowerment and teaching basic mechanic skills to become more self-reliant.

For around three hours work, people can earn their own bike. While there is no cost for the sessions or the bike itself, the project needs £15 to cover the price of a D-lock and a set of lights.

A bike is empowering for someone who has no money and can’t afford bus fares. Transport poverty is a big problem in Bristol, and buses are expensive. Some asylum seekers have to sign-in every fortnight at Patchway police station, which is 16 mile round trip. That’s a long walk,” said Mr Godfrey, the workshop coordinator.

“As a refugee you are in the justice system, you have to prove your asylum claim, which is your legal right to be here. The government want to make this country a hostile place to be here, but a bike really is a lifeline for people with such low income.”

Mr Godfrey said: “They are building flats above us, but they’re committed to keeping us here. Although rents are likely to increase dramatically and significantly, we have been well looked after. We’re really happy to stay here.

“C Block has been completely evicted of all the artists and we are the last tenants of C Block. But we really like this community and really want to stay in it, in the artistic Stokes Croft community and the St Paul’s community as well.

“We are funded by the shop, which is open to the public. Some of the bikes are sold to fund activities and we repair bikes for the general public. Grant funding is important but is more difficult now, as the council doesn’t have as much money as it used to have.”


Monthly maintenance: DIY biodegradable bike lube!

This month, we thought we’d give a bit of a plug to our favourite suppliers of bicycle maintenance products which are kind to both people and planet… Green Oil!

Green Oil are leading the way in green and sustainable bicycle maintenance products, raising awareness of the harm petrochemicals and PTFE can do in a workshop environment, in your garage, and to the rivers and seas we all enjoy. Their products are made in Britain, skin safe and use the greenest materials from recycled (not just recyclable) plastic in their bottles to plant based fully biodegradable formulas.

We’re proud to use Green Oil in our community workshop and trading arm – and it’s also available for you to buy in our shop!

Because we love a bit of DIY here at BBP, for those who want to go a step further here’s a video by Simon Nash from Green Oil about how you can make your own biodegradable bicycle lubricant at home!


Join us at one of our Community Dr Bikes this summer!

Every year when the sun starts to shine, we pack up our mobile mechanics kit and take to streets of Bristol to offer free safety checks and tune ups on your bicycles.
This year we were delighted to receive £1,000 from the Big Bike Revival to deliver these Community Dr Bikes throughout the summer. Here’s where you can find us!
9 June: St Werburghs Farm Fair
20 June: Eid Feast
23 June: Bristol Waste Public Day
24 June: Celebrating Sanctuary (Refugee Week)
8 July: Bristol Grand Prix
17 July: Aid Box Community
29 July: Islamic Cultural fayre
2 September Picnic in the Park (Mina Road Park)
So pop along and say hello! And if you want to learn how to do it yourself the next time, we’ll tell you about all the opportunities there are to brush up on your mechanics skills in our workshop.

Brooks England writes about cooperation & community at The Bristol Bike Project

This piece was written and photographed by Alex Turner and published in Brooks England

As you walk down the Gloucester Road in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were a long way away from a space as calm and peaceful as the Bristol Bike Project. The high street is a raucous cavalcade of independent shops – a melting pot of the many communities that make Stokes Croft such a lively and engaging place to be. Walk away from the busy road, round the back of the imposing Hamilton House and you will be greeted with a small green space that immediately feels welcoming. This is the courtyard of the Bristol Bike Project, a social enterprise that focuses on empowering disadvantaged and marginalised people within Bristol. By repairing and rehoming unused bikes, the Bristol Bike Project allows people access to the independence and freedoms afforded by access to a working bicycle.

These are freedoms that even James Lucas, cofounder of the Bike Project didn’t fully understand when he first started the project almost ten years ago. He says it was while volunteering at Bristol Refugee Rights that he first identified “a really clear need for people to have access to affordable transport that wasn’t a car or an expensive bus pass”, and during his time there he realised “people were walking 2-3 hours a day to get to the Welcome Centre.” After returning from a cycling trip in Scandinavia with Colin, the project’s other founder, the duo began putting posters up requesting unused bikes. “The bikes just came flooding in”, James tells me. “It’s a huge resource in Bristol – unwanted, unused bikes.”

Though the bikes are still gathered in much the same way, wheeled in off the street by people no longer using them, the project’s reach, scope and influence has expanded hugely since its modest beginnings. The project now caters for people referred to them by over 50 organisations in Bristol. In doing so, they help refugees, victims of trafficking and domestic abuse, recovering addicts, those suffering from mental illness and other groups to get mobile. This is achieved through a programme of workshops that allows people to ‘earn a bike’ – after learning some mechanical skills and basic bike maintenance, they are able to cycle out of the door on their own bike.

Acquisition of skills is as central to the project as the bikes themselves are. In the very early days of the project, James says they simply handed bikes out to people. They very quickly decided to take a different tack, however. “Actually, we want people to come along, feel empowered and feel part of the process – the process is really important”.

In learning these skills, people are liberated even further than they are by just being able to access the bike – travelling independently and autonomously by maintaining their own bike and fixing routine problems on their own. James recalls one man who came to the project that morning, and relies on his bike to get to college. “Suddenly he has a puncture and it’s game over for him”, he says. “Rather than just repairing the puncture, one of the volunteers talked him through how to do it himself, so that when it happens again, he can feel like ‘oh right, this is fine, I’ve got this in hand’, without losing valuable studying time.”

For experienced cyclists, we may feel like we are well-versed in the benefits of cycling regularly, be those benefits environmental, physical or spiritual. However, few of us who ride for leisure or to ease an otherwise annoying commute may appreciate the extent to which a bike can change your life, particularly when your only other alternative is conducting your entire life on foot. Being able to cycle to school, doctor’s appointments, work or simply to see family is hugely beneficial to marginalised people in need of support networks – and bike travel has changed people’s lives in ways even James and other volunteers hadn’t expected.

I am told about Sean, a former addict who is now an active member of the project and who in part credits the bike supplied to him by the project as a factor in his recovery. “Having a bicycle meant he could sail past people he would otherwise engage with that could be part of the reason he remained an addict, dealers or other users. He could actually get past and not engage with that.”

Despite the thrum of life that whirls through its doors at the busiest times of day, the place retains an atmosphere of serenity and purpose. Having spent an hour chatting with James about the values and ethos of the project, the sense of calm and cooperation that greets you on entry is far easier to explain. It’s inspiring to see the good that can be done for the wider community through bicycles and bike travel. Though, as James says, the aims of the project have always been more ambitious and inclusive than giving people bikes and sending them on their way, “communities becoming more resilient can only happen if people meet each other and are in direct contact… here it just happens to be around bikes.” On a hot Thursday afternoon in this busy corner of Bristol, the latest batch of new riders take their wheels for a spin. As handshakes and broad smiles are exchanged between the volunteers and the new beneficiaries, you can’t help but feel that something special is happening.


Zoe and Tim’s bike adventure #bikeswithoutbarriers

Cycling enthusiasts and BBP fans, Zoe and Tim, are heading out on an adventure! Yesterday they set off on an epic trip from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul, raising money for the Project! Read their story…

We are setting off on an overland adventure to Istanbul. Taking the ferry to the Hook of Holland on 3 May we will be cycling through Europe to the closest border of Asia. We are packing light (leaving friends horrified by the lack of pants we are taking) with the aim to cycle and camp for 10 weeks as much of the way as we are able.

This has been a dream for a long time that we were never sure whether we’d actually be able to do but with some luck, rash decisions and spreadsheet planning we are making it happen!

Whilst this is a dream of ours we also want to use the opportunity to help The Bristol Bike Project with their work in the community by raising awareness and hopefully some money too. A large portion of our route follows a similar trail to that taken by refugees crossing Europe. BBP works with refugees and other marginalised people in the community with their Earn-a-Bike scheme.

If you’d like to support our big adventure by donating to The Bristol Bike Project you can donate on our fundraising page and follow our journey on instagram – @zoeandtim #bikeswithoutbarriers #zoeandtimgogogo