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Blaze

We asked, Blaze answered

We’re always on the look out for new Bike Hubs, places that can accept and hold donations for us to collect later. So a few weeks ago we put a call out for anyone who has room for a bike rack. And in less than a fortnight, six new Hubs have been set up.

One of the wonders who got in touch turned out to be a bit of a blast from the past. Based in Shoreditch, Blaze create clever bits of tech to make cycling safer. You might have spotted green bike symbols projected onto the pavement from the London Santander Cycles – that’s them. We first met them a few years back and, after reconnecting over Bike Hubs last week, Rachel from Blaze tells sent us this lovely email:

“Setting up as a bike hub was as easy as saying the word ‘yes’. It’s really exciting to be involved and we’re looking forward to meeting more of our neighbours as they come to donate their wheels. We’ve even been talking about getting in some treats of the edible kind to sweeten the deal, as many of us will do anything for chocolate!

We’ve been following the project from afar via The Bike Project’s newsletter for some years, after Jem came to visit our office when Blaze was in its infancy. We read that you were looking for new Bike Hubs and the timing was perfect – we have just moved from our own tiny ‘bike shed’ in Bethnal Green into a larger ‘home’ where the Kingsland and Hackney Roads join. We have the space, and we heard the call to arms  🙂

Why are we a good match? We are a bike light company, and our workforce is made up of cyclists. We all ride bikes, and in fact it’s probably the one common feature that the 13 of us share. Like all of us we want to do more to help others where we can, and it makes sense to partner with the Bike Project as hopefully we will be able to introduce our customers and stockists to the work that you do as well.”

Thank you Rachel and everyone at Blaze – and to all of our other amazing Bike Hubs.

You can find the Bike Hubs on our Bike Hub map, along with lots of other places you can donate any unwanted bikes.

Want to become a Bike Hub yourself? You can find out how here.

Become a Bike Hub

JRS Bike Hub

Becoming a Bike Hub for The Bike Project is an easy, wonderful way to support refugees and asylum seekers in London.

You can find out how to become a Bike Hub here. And to give you an idea of why it’s so brilliant, have a read of what Bike Hub hosts Jon and Jonathan have to say below.

 


 

The Jesuit Refugee Service is one of our bike donation drop off points (or Bike Hubs) and a partner in our Women’s Cycle Training scheme. We caught up with Jonathan from the JRS to hear about his experience of hosting a Bike Hub for The Bike Project.

Why did you decide to become a drop off point for The Bike Project?

“We were very happy to support The Bike Project by becoming a drop off point as we had seen how much they had motivated and encouraged our refugee friends.

The Bike Project is a wonderful initiative which continues to prove that solidarity and hospitality make our lives and communities better and more fun; I’m pretty sure that the refugee friends The Bike Project has made are a big reason for its success.”

 

What is the best thing about being a drop off point?

“Seeing our refugee friends getting around on the donated bikes, the freedom and excitement cycling uniquely allows, just shows why it is a privilege to act as a drop off point. So do join up and play your part!”

 

Do you have any advice for other centres thinking of becoming a drop off point?

“Once the racks are installed or the storage arrangements fixed, being a drop off point does not call for too much effort – though, when you’re preoccupied with something else, don’t forget to give a big ‘thank you’ and smile to the donors!”

 


 

Jon and the Finchley Reform Synagogue have supported The Bike Project for years, and recently became one of our Bike Hubs.

Why did you decide to become a drop off point for The Bike Project?

“As one of our main charity partners, FRS members have donated money towards The Bike Project for over 3 years. We also wanted to provide practical support to a charity that improves the lives of London’s refugees and asylum seekers in tangible and sustainable ways. Being a drop off point in North London has allowed many more donors to give their unwanted bikes to this valuable cause.”

 

What’s the best thing about being a drop off point?

“So many bike donors are delighted that their once-loved machines will be put to such good use. When people bring in bikes with wheels falling off, broken brakes and rusty chains, they are amazed that we will still accept the donations, as we explain that their bike could be repaired, used as a training machine, or saved for spare parts.

Most synagogues in London are surrounded by high fences and have regular visible security patrols. Although we wish to be a welcoming place, the necessary security steps sometimes give off a different impression. Many bike donors are stepping into a synagogue for the first time when they bring their bikes, and it is a great chance to have a friendly conversation and ensure those barriers are broken down.”

 

Do you have any advice for other centres thinking of becoming a drop off point?

“It really is a simple, hassle-free way of making a big difference to the quality of people’s lives in our city. The Bike Project team make it really easy to arrange pick-ups when our bike store is full. We sometimes have to turn away donors because there is no drop-off point near them, and they are unable to bring bikes to Finchley. The more drop-off points there are, the further reaching the project will become.”

 

Happy New Year!

Can you guess which New Year’s Resolution often tops the most popular lists? If you guessed ‘Support The Bike Project’, we think you’re not far off.

Along with ‘exercise more’ (which is the usual top spot), loads of other common resolutions are Bike Project friendly. So if you’ve chosen any of these 3, we reckon we can help you keep it for the whole year round.

 

Get fit/exercise more

This is an easy one – you’ll want one bike, a route to work and Bob’s your uncle. The best place to get that bike? Why, The Bike Project, of course. Our shop is full of fantastic second hand, expertly fixed up bikes for you to choose from. And every penny goes back into supporting refugees in the UK. You can even find the helmet, lights and high vis you’ll need for safe January cycling, too.

Save money

This is an even easier one, because you just do number 1 again. You’ll be very surprised at how quickly you make back the cost of a bike (especially compared to a season ticket on public transport). And of course, as all of our bikes are second hand, they’re a complete bargain so you save money compared to buying a brand new bike. And it’s even more of a bargain when you take into account our amazing professional mechanics who fix our bikes up to be as good as new.

Get involved in a charity

Every Thursday you can pop along to The Bike Project HQ to give us a hand with fixing up the bikes that will be given away to asylum seekers. Our workshops run from 5-8pm at 12 Crossthwaite Avenue, Denmark Hill, SE5 8ET. There’s no need to book or have any knowledge about how to fix up a bike – you just turn up and muck in.

If you’re not able to donate your time or you live a bit too far away and you’d still like to support The Bike Project, you can make a one off financial donation here – any amount is greatly appreciated.

A Little Help from our Friends…

We talk a lot about Denmark Hill and Peckham. After all, it’s where you’ll find our digs. Now perhaps it has something to do with all these bikes, but more often than not we get the urge to get out of the front door and team up with charities further afield. Here are 6 – we’d love your suggestions for other charities to team up with.

Last summer we donated 15 bikes and ran a safety session for teens at Young Roots based near Croydon.

In January we trundled to Tooting to donate 15 bikes to CARAS, a community outreach programme, and to run a safety session for teens.

At the beginning of the year, we travelled to Coventry to pair up bikes with over 30 kids.

In May we ran a fun safety session for kids at the Children’s Society in East London and donated 20 bikes.

This half term we’ve been to the Children’s Society in East London again, with another 20 bikes and a safety session.

It’s been a busy week – we also went to Asylum Welcome in Oxford to donate 15 of our fixed-up bikes.

A happy cyclist

A lovely article about refugees in The Guardian…

The Bike Project

And, extremely excitingly, we’re in it. The Guardian have highlighted the amazing stuff that asylum seekers and refugees do once they make it to Britain. Amongst the chefs, journalists and nurses, there are our very own bike mechanics and volunteers.

As Kirstie Brewer writes, ‘Since launching in 2013, the Bike Project has given away 1,800 bikes. Today it’s very busy. Volunteers and staff mill around, introducing visitors to their bikes and kitting them out with helmets, bike locks, reflective jackets and maps of London. Then they’re taken out for a spin around the neighbourhood to get acquainted with their new wheels and learn about road safety.

Maizer, a Sudanese genocide survivor, says his bike has restored some dignity and independence to his life. “It’s like I have new wings.”’

 

We’re really proud to appear alongside such amazing charities who are also helping refugees find confidence and to reach their full potential. You can read the whole article over at The Guardian.

Ben Abrahams

On August 14th, a 32-year-old called Ben Abrahams was tragically killed in a car crash, leaving behind his wife and two children. Ben was a keen cyclist and his family have chosen to raise funds for The Bike Project in his honour.

Ian Verber, Ben’s father-in-law, had the following to say about Ben: “Ben Abrahams loved life, loved his family and loved cycling. When a car crash ended his life after 32 years packed with activity it left a huge gap in many people’s lives. It is hard to think that he will never see his two boys, Freddie and Arthur grow up. He cared passionately about their happiness, but he was also concerned about the welfare of other children and families who did not have their advantages. So it is not surprising that his wife Kate, his parents Sue and Roger, brother Greg and sister Lucy, together with Kate’s family and his many, many friends should decide to make a contribution to The Bike Project in his memory – combining as it does Ben’s two passions – love of family and the joy of cycling. We hope that many disadvantaged families will have a better future with the help of bikes provided by The Bike Project and we know that it would be a project close to Ben’s heart.”

So far, they have raised almost £2,500 for us which is incredibly helpful for a small charity like ours.

We are extremely saddened by the premature death of such a wonderful person in such tragic circumstances. We have been moved by the extraordinary generosity of Ben’s family and friends, we are eternally grateful for the support they have given us, especially at what must be an incredibly difficult time for them. It is a testament to what a wonderful man he was.

Our board, staff, volunteers, and the refugees we work with are eternally grateful for the support and we are honoured to be associated with him.

Rest in peace Ben.

ben-abrahams-photo

Ben Abrahams

Jem and Silla

Our founder Jem: In the papers for all the right reasons

Our founder Jem has spent the last week blushing. Rather wonderfully, he’s featured in The Evening Standard’s Top Ten People Shaping London’s Future. Here’s what they had to say about Jem:

“Being named Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 was acknowledgment that Jem Stein’s simple idea for getting asylum-seekers on two wheels is working. Based in Denmark Hill, The Bike Project workshop receives donations of second-hand bikes, then repairs and distributes them to people seeking asylum in the UK. So far more than 1,000 refugees have benefited from his scheme, saving money on transport costs in the capital.

The project employs a refugee as a full-time bike mechanic and offers bike-maintenance workshops. It also runs women-only cycling proficiency classes.”

There are 9 other wonderful people featured in the article, and you can read the full thing over at The Evening Standard’s website.

9 Top Cycling Tips for Newbies

New to cycling? Just getting back on the bike after a bit of a hiatus? Getting back into cycling may be like, well, riding a bike, but getting a refresher is always good.

Here are our Claire’s top tips for staying safe and confident on your two-wheeler.

  1. Take up space in the road: make yourself big! Being assertive and being seen is one of the most important things to remember on the road.
  2. Make sure you don’t cycle in the gutter; it’s got the most debris in it which leads to more visits from the puncture fairy, is has the worst road surface, and the highest risk of collision with pedestrians who step out into the road while updating their Facebook status.
  3. Leave a car door’s width, plus a little bit when cycling past parked or otherwise stationary cars. Remember the rhyme “a car door and a little bit more.”
  4. Avoid going down the left hand side of vehicles, especially big ones like lorries. Manoeuvres like this cause many accidents and, sadly, deaths – lorries have more blind spots than you can imagine so err on the side of caution.
  5. If you’re in a traffic jam and you’re filtering, make sure you have enough time to do it safely before the lights change.
  6. If you’re in a traffic jam and you’re not filtering, pretend you’re a car and sit in the middle of the lane so no one can squish you into the curb when the traffic starts moving.
  7. If you’re feeling wobbly or nervous don’t be afraid to get off and push!
  8. TFL offer free cycle training for all people – from families, those new to cycling to old hands wanting some assertiveness and advanced tips. Find it all here.
  9. LCC run a great mix of family friendly and more experienced/fast rider group rides, as well as listing free Dr Bikes and other cycling events. Find out more here.

Under the Olympic Flag

It’s not just countries that take part in the Olympics.

The games have a long tradition of politically uncertain groups participating ‘under the Olympic flag’ – newly independent countries which haven’t had time to set up a formal team, nationals of states under UN sanctions, and others.

But in Rio 2016, for the first time, there is a second group competing under the Olympic flag: the inaugural Refugee Olympic Team.

In June, organisers of the games announced that, to “act as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis”, ten refugees would be nominated by the UN, get trained by their countries of residence, and take part, marching in the opening ceremony ahead of the host nation Brazil.

One Ethiopian, two Congolese, two Syrians and five South Sudanese are out there right now, competing – in swimming, judo and athletics.

These ten refugees, representatives of millions of refugees worldwide, were selected for their sporting abilities. The opportunity that they and the 33 others on the shortlist have had – to train in top athletic facilities around the world and tell their stories to the world at the Olympics – is extraordinary.

The opportunity to fulfill their potential is life changing for any refugee. And, as in the Olympics, The Bike Project believes being physically active can help achieve this potential – in our case by cycling to a more independent, fulfilling life.

Because the bicycles and cycling classes we deliver are life-changing. With them, refugees living in London form part of a community, can travel cheaply and effectively to legal appointments for their asylum case, to college and to friends, and gain new skills to help them settle in to their new homes.

The Refugee Olympic Team is the big picture happening in Brazil.

The Bike Project is the hands-on, oil and grease work happening on the streets of London.

If you’d like to be a part of it, we’d love you to donate a bike, sponsor a bike or donate your time.

Nadia: How she took to the road

Nadia

“Cycling can do lots of stuff for you.”

That’s The Bike Project in a nutshell, but also Nadia’s story.

Nadia came to this country from India as an asylum seeker in 2009, but last summer, something new came into her life when a refugee centre in Snaresbrook advertised a cycling course for women.

Over six months, Nadia and other refugee women from around the world met regularly to learn how to become more mobile. “At first we would take the bikes to a small park, in the basketball court. We learned brakes and gears, and signals, and the things to check for safety before getting on.”

Some of the group, including Nadia, had cycled before in their home countries, but this gave them new challenges because the rules of the road are so different from place to place.

“I was really a bit scared of roundabouts: who is allowed to go first, what the lines mean… But everyone was very patient and supported me, and now whenever I go out, even without the bike, I pay more attention and look at how the road works.

“The instructors were lovely and helped each person focus on what they needed help with.”

The learners got more confident. “We decided to go on a short ride. Then we went on longer rides. I felt very safe, and the weather was good. It makes you happy! I feel more fresh and energetic after cycling.

“And it saves travel fares, which are always so difficult if you are on benefits and have to buy groceries as well.”

Most of the women had such a good time that they kept in touch with each other after the course ended. Some went on to another course about how to maintain their bicycles – “Women Fix it” run by Otesha. And Nadia’s instructors even found her a cycling mentor near her home in East London who could continue to support her and help her build up local knowledge.

Nadia’s final message? “I really wanted to do this interview. I got so much out of The Bike Project, I would want to help in any way I can.”

Names have been changed.

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Jem and Silla

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