My bicycle is my peaceful weapon: cycling to Palestine

In September 2017, BBP volunteer Susannah O’Sullivan set off to cycle 6000km from Bristol to Palestine, where she ended up living for 6 months working as a solidarity activist supporting resistance against the occupation. There Susannah witnessed more injustice and violence than she could have imagined, but she also fell in love with Palestine. Along the way Susannah passed through 15 countries, wild camping along the way and sleeping by rivers, on empty beaches, in farm outhouses and once in a cave. Last month, Susannah hosted a talk at the Project where she told her story of resisting the occupation in Palestine. Here, she writes for us on her bike travels and how volunteering at BBP helped her to prepare.

Early last year I decided to cycle to Palestine. I wanted to cross continents and plunge myself into difficult situations. I wanted to push myself to the limit and see how far I could go. Eager for adventure, I set about preparing. I started volunteering at The Bristol Bike Project fixing old bikes for their Earn-A-Bike scheme, that teaches maintenance skills to refugees who then receive their own bicycle. I was already working with refugees in Bristol, and this gave me an opportunity to work on my mechanical skills and help in the community at the same time. I learned how to strip old bikes and rebuild them, which I then put to use building my own bike for my trip. I ended up wobbling down my lane in Bristol in September 2017, weighed down with all my gear for a cold autumn ahead.

In the early days of the trip I struggled cycling with that much weight, and questioned what I was doing, but by the time I was in Switzerland I was stronger and enjoying the peace and solitude of quiet roads and deserted forests. Mostly I camped in the wild but sometimes it wasn’t possible and I asked farmers to camp on their land. In Croatia a farmer let me pitch my tent in her outhouse and phoned her English-speaking daughter in Canada to ask if I wanted milk and sugar in my coffee. A farmer in Bavaria put me in their spare room and fed me breakfast with fresh bread rolls from the bakery he also worked in. A Greek farmer let me pitch by his chickens, then went out to buy me a chip and tzatziki sandwich and chocolate.

I revelled in these moments of warmth and human kindness as much as I did the moments of calm I felt when I was alone in nature. I felt that my bicycle broke down people’s natural defences about strangers and made people open and curious about my trip. I learned to ignore the fears of doubters, and trust in the kindness of strangers, on which every long distance cyclist must sometimes rely. This was probably the best possible preparation for my time in Palestine, which pushed me to a different kind of limit.


Bristol cyclists raise nearly £700 to get more people out on two wheels!

Earlier this year two awesome adventurers Zoe and Tim went on an epic cycle ride, following the refugee trail for 2,158 miles, over 70 days, through 12 countries and raising a whopping £669 for our Earn-a-Bike programmes. It’s a huge THANK YOU to Zoe and Tim from everyone at The Bristol Bike Project for supporting us in style… 🙂

Now they are back home and settling into Bristol life, Zoe wrote one final blog for us about their experience of the Hungarian border where the realities of the ongoing refugee crisis really hit home… 

It’s been over a month since we got home from our trip and it’s mad how quickly it’s all become a distant memory. When people ask for the highlights the first thing that always comes to mind is how lovely people were to us all along the way – friendly waves from villagers, warm welcoming hosts, encouragement from travellers, friendly beeps and waves from drivers and even a joke and a smile from the border guards. And this always reminds us how one day of our travels really made us think.

Along Hungary’s border with Serbia and Croatia, Hungarian soldiers watched the borderland fields searching for people trying to cross. The borders are closed to refugees so the only route is through the heavily fortified nomans land. It was very sobering, especially when the soldiers holding their huge guns gave us cheery waves. We couldn’t help but think how different their reception would be under other circumstances. This really highlighted how the refugee crisis is ongoing (even if it isn’t in the news every day), the lengths some people go to for the safety of their families and how terrifying it would be to come across those border guards under different circumstances.

Looking back I also still can’t believe how far you can go on a bike! The last day of August was the last day our fundraising page is open for donations, but if you’d still like to donate and read about the wonderful work The Bristol Bike Project do with refugees and other marginalised people in our community, please visit their supporters page at https://localgiving.org/charity/thebristolbikeproject/


Bristol to Bestival Cyclists raise nearly £4k for BBP!

The Bike to Bestival cycle ride raised a whopping £16k for The Bristol Bike Project and mental health charity CALM this summer, with £3,604 going directly to The Bristol Bike Project. There’s no doubt that donors and fundraisers are more motivated to support a cause when they can see the positive impact of their donations, so the Bristol participants began their race directly from the bike workshop in Stokes Croft to allow them to see first-hand the benefit of their fundraising.

Before the ride began, the 18 cyclists were given bike inspections by volunteers at The Bristol Bike Project to make sure their equipment was up to task. A mix of volunteers, marshals, pro-cyclists, average commuters, a camera crew and a support vehicle rolled out on the gruelling 100m cycle ride at 12pm on Wednesday, fuelled by locally produced coffee and breakfast from nearby Door & Rivet.

It was this mix of abilities and personalities that made the Bristol cycle ride a friendly and community-minded event. This team alone comprised of a postman, an engineer, a group of swing dancers and tyre salesman, riding side by side. The ‘everyone welcome’ ethos of The Bristol Bike Project infiltrated the ride, with much encouragement and laughter among the cyclists regardless of ability. Several of the riders were nervous about an extended distance on open roads, so each marshal was allocated a small group of cyclists to fully chaperone at all times. Every marshal was an experienced bike mechanic, ensuring that a safe pair of hands was always available during mechanical faults.

The first day saw the team wind through 50 miles of hilly B roads of Bristol, Wells, and Frome before finally coming to rest at the peaceful and remote Kingsettle campsite. Here they enjoyed a friendly communal dinner and well-earned £2.50 pints of ale in the local pub.

A safe and incident-free first day boosted the confidence of all of the riders, which meant the second day of the bike ride was all about enjoying the scenery. The carefully-planned, 40 mile route took cyclists through the National Trust gardens of Stourhead, past King Alfred’s Tower, before rolling past Durdle Door and down towards the shimmering Lulworth Cove for a cooling dip in the sea and a well-deserved ice cream.

The final leg of their trip took them to the gates of Bestival, where they received a medal, a free ticket, a luxury shower wristband, secure bike storage and access to VIP camping. After such a gruelling but good-natured journey together, the majority of the team opted to spend the festival together, culminating in an authentic, camp stove-cooked Italian meal prepared for the entire team by one of the riders.

Many of the riders reunited at The Bristol Bike Project’s annual BBQ last weekend, and in the true community spirit of the organisation some of the participants have since become involved in a skills swap, trading cycling advice for indoor climbing and swing dancing tips.

If you’d like to take part in next year’s Bike to Bestival, look out for updates on The Bristol Bike Project and Bestival Facebook pages from May 2019 to register for your place.

 


Support The Southmead Project charity ride

The Southmead Project is arranging a 50 mile cycle challenge in order to raise awareness of the work being carried out by Southmead Project and to raise valuable funds for the charity.

The Southmead Project is a charity that supports adults who have been affected by sexual, physical or emotional abuse during childhood or later in life. As well as supporting individuals, the project is also working towards raising awareness of the impact of abuse and the cost this has both to individual and society at large.

We are based in Southmead Bristol, the service is available to anyone in the Bristol or surrounding areas.

The Southmead project offers both group support and one to one counselling where professional counsellors will listen and explore ways of helping people to reclaim lives affected by trauma and abuse. Counselling is offered based on need and is a very effective way of aiding recovery from trauma brought on by child abuse. Alongside the important work that is carried out directly with clients, the project also runs events to raise awareness of the impact abuse has on people’s lives. One such event is the wall of silence, an exhibition launched at Colston Hall in Bristol and shown at venues across the country, including City Hall London and Avon and Somerset Police HQ. This exhibition not only raises awareness of the impact and suffering abuse causes, it also serves to offer hope to others whose lives have been impacted by abuse, showing them there is hoping to reclaim their lives.

Currently the demand for the service is higher than the charities’ capacity to meet the needs within the city. As such it is essential events are held to raise funds to allow the valuable work to continue.

The fifty-mile bike ride challenge is open to anyone who wishes to participate, there is no fee to join the ride but we do ask you to raise sponsorship that is then donated to our charity.

For more information please phone Angela on 07985 752 316 or email southmead_project@yahoo.co.uk.


Guest Blog: Yoga for Cyclists in Bristol and Bath

This month’s guest blog is written by Rob Reid, aka Yoga Dad, the father of two who runs yoga classes for cyclists in Bristol and Bath and uses the money made to support The Bristol Bike Project. Thanks Yoga Dad! 

When I first moved to Keynsham, Bristol, one of the things that really impressed me was the community spirit. That sense as though most people valued where they lived and looked out for one another. The town has changed a lot over the past few years, and it’s not been without its challenges, but that sense of community spirit is still at its heart.

A good example is the yoga for cyclists classes I now run in Keynsham, Bristol. My local bike shop is the excellent 73 Degrees on the High St. Their move to the area has been like a breath of fresh air for the Bristol cycling community. When I initially spoke with 73 Degrees about yoga for cyclists in Bristol, they were really interested. The main reason being they run a bike fitting service, with them recommending to many of their customers they should do yoga to help lengthen tight areas such as hips and hamstrings.

It was a similar situation when speaking with the local Bristol cycling club. Salt and Sham (SAS) Collective Cycling has over 150 members, with many involved in a wide range of cycling disciplines around Bristol, Bath and beyond. Its main event each week is its club ride where around 100 riders follow a 45km loop around Chew Valley Lake. A number of their members had realised the benefits yoga was bringing to their cycling, There was a real appetite for yoga for cyclists classes being run in the local community.

We agreed it would be good to run yoga for cyclists classes in Keynsham, Bristol. What better venue than 73 Degrees bike shop itself. I ran a yoga for cyclists taster session in mid-July and will be doing likewise in mid-August. Both classes are full, with many of those attending doing yoga for the first time. The feedback I received from the first yoga for cyclists class was that they really enjoyed and they were interested in more classes. There was something very special about running a yoga for cyclists class in Bristol while surrounded by bikes hanging on the walls. You can see a short video of the class here.

The classes are being used as fundraisers for The Bristol Bike Project. BBP do amazing work for the Bristol cycling community. In particular, repairing and relocating unwanted bikes. This includes through its Earn-A-Bike scheme where they run bike maintenance workshops for marginalised groups in society, refurbishing bikes that they then keep. There’s a strong sense of empowerment and self-reliance, so that the scheme is not just seen as a handout. This scheme functions as a bond between the owner and their bike.

I love being able to use yoga to give something back to the local community. Bringing together my passion for yoga and cycling through the yoga for cyclists classes has been like a match made in heaven. I am planning to start a yoga for cyclists programme for the Bristol and Bath cycling community very soon. If you are interested in attending yoga for cyclist classes in Bristol with Yogadad, please get in touch.

This blog was first published on https://yogadad.co.uk/


Guest Blog: How The Bristol Bike Project is empowering women through cycling

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…

Joey, Totterdown

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.

Anna, 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.”

Roberta, Bristol

“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.”

Seonaid, Bristol

“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.”

This article was originally published on RedBull. All photo credits Tom Ham


Monthly Maintenance: keep that rust at bay!

This month’s maintenance tip features on BBC Radio Bristol! Our fabulous shop mechanic Adam gives the lowdown on how to keep your bike rolling smoothly between services and protected from the rain. Follow this link and fast forward to 1 hour 25 mins!


Bike to Bestival… and they’re off!!

Today the fabulous Bike to Bestival riders set off on their adventure cycling just over 100 miles south towards Bestival, taking in the beautiful Somerset levels and the epic Jurassic coast along their way.
These awesome riders have absolutely smashed it with the fundraising, raising nearly £3,500 for our Earn-a-Bike programmes. That’s a LOT of bikes finding new homes with people who really need them. And it’s not too late to donate either! If you want to support their impressive efforts, head over to the Bike to Bestival page to donate.
As we speak the group are giving their bikes the final once over and topping up their waters, making sure they’re all saddled up and ready to go. You can follow their progress on our Instagram Facebook and Twitter pages.
A big well done and thank you from everyone at The Bristol Bike Project to each and every one of these riders for helping us to get more and more people across Bristol out on two wheels. Let’s all wish them some happy tailwinds 🌬

‘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!