Sunday, January 23, 2022

Bike kitchens: Community-run repair workshops that help build a culture of cycling

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by Simon Batterbury, Alejandro Manga, Matthias Kowasch, Ruth Lane,

Credit: James Batterbury

Cycling reduces greenhouse gasoline emissions, brings myriad well being advantages and reduces site visitors. But city planners and policymakers typically wrestle to get extra individuals on bikes.

To enhance city cycling, we’d like greater than further cycling infrastructure; we’d like a culture change. A worldwide motion of group bike workshops, often known as bike kitchens, can help.

Bike kitchens supply instruments, second hand elements and bikes, and convivial help with repairs. They are additionally hubs for group growth.

Since 2014 we have now visited over 50 bike kitchens around the globe—within the US, Australia, NZ, UK, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Mexico and Belgium to analysis how they function. We have additionally volunteered and led pupil tasks at a number of workshops.

Building a culture of cycling

Dedicated , highway remedies and bike parking are comparatively low-cost to build and keep in comparison with roads, automotive parks, and main public transport schemes. There is some correlation between higher bike infrastructure and extra riders.

But higher infrastructure alone doesn’t resolve the issue. In Paris, with its pro-bike mayor and site visitors calming initiatives, a latest explosion in bike use has led to accidents and clashes, suggesting different elements like and up-skilling want consideration.

In lockdown this yr, Sydney skilled a 78% enhance in cycling accidents when extra individuals took to their bikes.

Cycling in cities is a social observe, and constructing a culture of cycling is crucial—particularly the place bike use has historically been low.

It’s important to cycling culture that a important mass of individuals have driving and bike upkeep expertise, and the exercise is extra socially accepted.

That’s the place bike kitchens are available in.

Bike kitchens: the community-run repair workshops that help build a culture of cycling
WeCycle, a workshop in Gumbri Park, Melbourne provides free bikes to asylum seekers, refugees, and folks in want. Credit: Simon Batterbury, Author offered

Convivial locations to build and repair a bike

Bike kitchen workshops are initiated and run by activists and socially-minded cyclists. Most train hands-on self-repair and upkeep expertise to individuals who need to study. Others give away free bikes to those that want them.

Workshops lengthen the use life of bicycles and parts. They are half of the community financial system and interrupt the waste stream; most elements come from donated or scavenged bikes and are re-used creatively and cheaply with a DIY ethos, avoiding new consumption.

Some bikes could also be bought to assist ongoing prices, however hardly ever for prime costs.

Workshops numbers have grown for the reason that Nineties, and are widespread throughout Europe, the Americas, Australasia and the remaining of the world.

The largest focus is in France. Most are networked by l’Heureux Cyclage, which coordinates occasions, logistics, and studying between 250 workshops, helping nicely over 110,000 individuals yearly.

Brussels has at the least 18, like Cycloperativa, unfold throughout the town’s arrondissements.

Ten bike workshops function in Austria, with at the least 4 in Vienna. They embrace Flickerei and WUK which, established in 1983, might be the world’s oldest.

How bike kitchens work

There are two essential varieties of bike kitchens:

1) locations the place instruments, elements and bike stands are supplied for anyone to make use of, assisted by workshop volunteers and typically by paid mechanics. Most are social enterprises or non-profits, selling what’s identified in French as vélonomie: the flexibility of a bike owner to keep up a bicycle and journey safely and with confidence.

2) these that repair bikes for others—typically for the deprived—equivalent to WeCycle in Melbourne which presents bikes to refugees and asylum seekers. Working Bikes in Chicago sends bikes to the Global South.

Bike kitchens: the community-run repair workshops that help build a culture of cycling
Récup’R in its former premises in Bordeaux, France. Credit: Simon Batterbury

There are sometimes fixing periods and different actions for particular ages, genders and teams. At one of the oldest French bike workshops, Un p’tit vélo dans la tête in Grenoble, one volunteer advised us some fixing periods are women-only.

For members of the general public with out cash, earn-a-bike packages convert volunteer hours into eventual bike possession.

Workshop guidelines range, however nearly all forbid racist and sexist habits and assist conviviality, range and respect. The essential aim is “integrating a community,” the identical volunteer advised us.

Over time, a few diversify to turn into large social enterprises, like Cyclo in Brussels. Fees from memberships or workshop time, bike gross sales or authorities employment schemes permit some workshops to tackle paid workers.

Others like Atelier Vélorutionaire in Paris reject business or authorities assist completely, championing a extra militant stance towards vehicles and capitalism.

Bike kitchens in Australia

Australia has had many group bike tasks courting again over 30 years, with The Bike Shed in Melbourne being one of the primary. Workshops come and go, however there are at the least 18, with seven in Melbourne and 4 in Sydney.

Many smaller initiatives work in colleges, church buildings, or at recycling facilities. They are networked by BiCANZ.

WeCycle in Melbourne is a workshop targeted on fixing bikes for others. Founders Gayle Potts and Craig Jackson have equipped refurbished to asylum seekers, refugees and folks in want since 2016.

A group strategy to sustainable transport

Workshops want volunteers and safe premises with energy and light-weight, on or off-grid. Limited budgets make this a problem.

While workshops will be co-housed, safe premises is the important thing space the place assist from authorities and bike-friendly donors is welcome. Tools, racks and spares are additionally wanted.

Community bike workshops lengthen bicycle lifespans and promote a group strategy to sustainable transport—all whereas selling conviviality and making our cities extra habitable.


Graveyard of the bikes: China’s failed share-cycle scheme from above


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