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Refugee women learning to cycle

Refugee women often have hardly any experience of cycling, as it may not be encouraged in their home country. We run a women-only project, where they can learn to ride in a warm, supportive environment. Their confidence grows as they learn to ride safely, while meeting like-minded people and making friends.

Thank you Pooja Puri, author of The Jungle

 

I’m David and I’m Chair of The Bike Project. Pooja tells you: “For anyone looking for a way to help, The Bike Project is a wonderful charity which donates bikes to refugees and asylum seekers.”

The Jungle and The Bike Project are a tandem. Like the young people in the book, we know the value of a bicycle for unlocking space; access; time; health and sociability. The Bike Project brings more of life within the reach of refugees and asylum-seekers in London.

In 2016, we refurbished and gave away 950 bicycles. This year we want to give away 1,200 bikes to refugees and asylum-seekers. We are supported by lots of people like you – who give bikes and time and money; and we have a brilliant founder and staff team.

The book is gripping, moving and stormy. It doesn’t comfort you with a happy end; but it does show you many wondrous bonds that make friendship and resilience. And Pooja gives us some brilliant prose. I love this description of Leila and Mico sulking after an argument – “the space between them itching with the prickly silence of remembered words”.

The Jungle is about presence and disappearance; about young people struggling for their place against the greatest odds.

We must take a stand. We cannot accept their disappearance – from the political agenda; from our consciousness; literally from the face of the earth.

Pooja’s novel is a powerful voice and a great read.

Buy the book and as a bonus you’ll find out how to support The Bike Project.

Thank you Pooja – and all of you – for your support.

 

Saddler well

Beautiful as a dancer’s slipper and just as sturdy, there’s something utterly balletic about a Brooks saddle. They’re also the comfiest place to perch your bum this side of a sofa (and a better fit on your bike, too). 

Invented over 100 years ago by lavishly-bearded John Boultbee Brooks, you can still spot a Brooks saddle by its unique leather design today. John wasn’t always into bikes. He started out as a saddle maker for horses, and it was only when his horse died that he decided to give cycling a go. It’s safe to say that his first ride left him less than impressed and more than a little sore. So, as the Victorians were in the habit of doing, John got down to inventing and created the Brook leather prototype saddle in 1878.

Brooks perfected his saddle, and didn’t stop there – the Brooks company have been responsible for all sorts of weird and wonderful inventions over the years. In their 1926 catalogue alone you can find ‘handlebar muffs’, ‘snap-on leggings’ and a side car screen.

You won’t see any of those in their latest catalogue, but you will spot a few of John’s original seats, almost exactly as he designed them over 100 years ago. Made with top notch leather stretched over a sturdy frame, Brooks saddles have a rep for comfort, longevity and style. And thanks to their sturdiness, we’ve got some fantastic second hand specimens in our shop. They’re still in amazing condition, and are so comfy they’ll have you dancing on your wheels.

Find our second hand Brooks saddles in our shop.

 

Joh and Ben from Hiplok

Cyclists on a mission

Ben and John from Hiplok have donated a load of their very clever, wearable bike locks to The Bike Project this week. Here’s John from Hiplok with the story of how they came up with such a genius idea and, more importantly, how they made it happen.

“Hiplok was founded by myself and a uni friend, Ben Smith, back in 2011. We used to go mountain biking together and chat about random ideas we had for bikes (or other things). Our background is in product development (we studied industrial product design together at Coventry). Ben was working in the bike industry whist I worked for a product development agency in Windsor.

One day I cycled to a friend’s house, left my bike up the drive outside his house in a quiet suburban street only to return 15 mins later to find it had gone. I’d had bikes stolen before (you’d have thought I would have learned my lesson) but this was the catalyst which got me thinking about a better way to carry a bike lock.

Taking inspiration from the way many bike couriers carried their locks, I approached Ben with the idea and the concept of Hiplok was born. Ben was living in the US so we’d work on prototypes, send them back and forth, and talk on Skype most days for about a year before launch. Five years later the wearable lock idea has now grown into a wide range of bicycle security products and we now sell in over 20 countries worldwide.

I first heard about the Bike Project via a close family friend, Sarah Payne. Sarah is one of the trustees of the charity. She knew I was involved in the bike industry and said I should check them out.

Hiplok is donating a number of bicycle locks for The Bike Project. We will also be supporting the project in a number of other ways over the coming months, so keep an eye out.”

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

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Jem and Silla

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