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Cycling Towards Syria: Calais & Dunkirk, France

Cycle to Syria

This summer, Bike Project volunteers David (hi) and Caz are cycling 2,500 miles across Europe, following the routes of migration back towards Syria. On this trip, we’re trying to learn as much as we can about the effects of migration on residents and refugees alike. Right now, we’re in Germany, having already cycled through England, France and Belgium. In this update, I’d like to tell you a bit about the migrant camps in Calais and Dunkirk, just a couple of days’ cycle from our homes in London.

We’d both visited Calais before, but Dunkirk was completely new to us and couldn’t have felt more different: the Dunkirk migrant camp is to the Calais jungle as Milton Keynes is to London. Where Calais is only now having some semblance of order imposed on its meandering medieval street plan, Dunkirk has been ordered from conception to execution.

The Dunkirk camp, the first in France built to UN standards, is around a quarter the size of the Calais jungle. It’s home to approximately 1,100 people, mostly Iraqi Kurds (~90%). This gives the camp an ethnic and cultural homogeneity that Calais, with its jumbled compounds of Eritrean, Ethiopian, Syrian, Afghan, Pakistani, Sudanese and others, will never have. (Milton Keynes compared to London again!)

The Dunkirk camp opened with the blessing of the local Green Party Mayor and is managed by Utopia, a local charity. Any charities or organisations attempting to manage the communities in Calais have basically failed. Both the recent destruction of half the vast shanty town and the construction of more comfortable container living accommodation have been met with serious opposition, including violent resistance.

But the starkest contrast between the two camps is in enterprise. In Calais there are restaurants, shops, a barbers, churches, mosques, bicycle mechanics, schools, a library, bakeries, a youth centre, a play bus, as well as the bustle of constant construction as architects and carpenters get to work building something new.

Dunkirk is a sleepy suburb in comparison. My Friend’s Cafe serves free tea and coffee and when we passed a folk band were fiddling to a full tent. But the only migrant-run businesses that I saw were a couple of roadside stalls, offering baguettes, biscuits and a few other essentials. That’s why I got quite so excited when I bumped into an Iraqi Kurd making a beehive from scavenged wood. (https://youtu.be/svzB4uFg6lQ)

The look on his face reminded me of the people I meet at The Bike Project, getting stuck into an oily old clanger. Obviously, no one would choose the life of a refugee, but it doesn’t take much to return to them a smidgen of autonomy – whether that’s the tools to fix up an ancient bike, or some scrap wood to corral some stray bees. At the very least, we should share our honey.

For regular updates on the ride, please visit www.davidcharles.info and join the mailing list.

If you’d like to support the ride, then think about donating to our Bike Project fundraiser! https://localgiving.org/fundraising/cyclingsyria

Second hand? Oh no, this is vintage…

Vintage Dawes Galaxy

Stu is one of our resident bike gurus. An expert in all things two-wheeled, he’s got a soft spot for the vintage variety.

“I’m definitely into vintage bikes. They were finished elegantly, even the frames were fixed together with flowery swirls called legwork. They’re just more unique.”

It’s not all about looks, though. Stu says, “The quality of materials were better back in the day. It’s common for bikes to be 30 years old and absolutely fine. They’re very hard wearing.”

So why does it feel like the vintage bike trend is so new? Stu’s got a few theories. “Cycling’s more popular since the London Olympics, so you’ve got people looking to get back into cycling for perhaps the first time since they were kids. They want bikes that remind them of what they used to ride.

“Also there’s the hipster culture of recent graduates. Money’s tight but they still want something that looks good, so vintage cycling is back on the map.

“And of course there’s up-cycling (pardon the pun). People are trying to be green, bikes are one way they can do that, and a second hand bike is even better.”

And best of all, a second hand and vintage bike from The Bike Shop will help get a bike to refugees in London. There’s always a few in the shop (and there’s a real gem in at the moment – the gorgeous Dawes number in the picture), so keep checking back for new ones.

All the fun of the Dulwich Festival Fair

What’s summer in Blighty without a good old Fair? Come and join us at The Dulwich Festival Fair on Sunday 8th May. There’ll be food, live music and loads of entertainment for families.

The Bike Project will be there, with secondhand kids’ bikes for sale with all proceeds going back into The Bike Project. And you can bring your bikes along for a diagnosis from our expert mechanics in our Dr Bike session. They’ll be around to give advice, answer questions and inspire follicular envy.

What?

The Dulwich Festival Fair

When?

Sunday 8th May 11am-4pm

Where?

On Goose Green in East Dulwich

How?

Just turn up – there’ll be plenty of food, drinks, fun and games for you once you arrive.

 

Silla: A Volunteer’s story

Silla and Jem

Silla with Jem, The Bike Project founder. Photo by James Sharrock.

Silla is an amazing bloke. A skilled carpenter, he can build a house from the floor up. A brilliant storyteller, he can tell a tale in four different languages. And since he began volunteering with The Bike Drop three years ago, he can fix any bike up, too.  This is his story.

“I heard about The Bike Drop from The Red Cross. When I went for the first time, I found it very helpful. I couldn’t afford transport when I was studying.”

With only £36 a week to live on and prohibited from working, not being able to afford transport is the norm for asylum seekers. It makes a bike essential.

“There weren’t enough bikes the first time I went, but I was told if I kept coming to the drop in sessions to help, I could find the bike of my dreams. One day I got lucky. I got a bike, and then I kept coming as a volunteer.

I find it so exciting the way The Bike Project have been helping refugees and asylum seekers. As an asylum seeker, if someone doesn’t know you, they don’t talk to you. Volunteering here is the place to forget that, to meet people and have a little laugh.

You make friendships here. I don’t see everyone at The Bike Project as friends, they’re family.

We still need volunteers to fix bikes and help. You’ll learn something new and make new friends.”

 

We’d love for you to join Silla and the rest of us every Thursday from 4:45 – 8pm at 12 Crossthwaite Avenue, Denmark Hill, SE5 8ET. You can help fix up bikes, match helmets and bike lights to people, or just be a friendly face to greet everyone. If you’re interested or have any questions, please get in touch here.

Ridgeback bike

Stu’s Top 5 Tips for Buying a Second Hand Bike

Stu is one of our bike wizards. He’s worked with bikes for over ten years now, so he really knows his stuff when it comes to buying a second hand one. Have a look at his top 5 tips below to make sure you avoid the rust buckets and get something great.

Of course the easiest way to avoid being sold a dud is by buying your bike through the Bike Project Shop. All our second hand bikes have been fixed up to tip top condition by Stu and our other mechanics, and 100% of the proceeds go towards keeping the Bike Project running.

 

1) First things first

Check the frame and wheels first. If you can see cracks or lots of rust on the frame, that’s a big warning sign and it’s probably not worth it. Give the wheels a spin. A little bit of a wobble is fine, but they shouldn’t be rubbing the brake pads.

2) Chain reaction

One of the most expensive parts to replace is the drive chain and sprockets. Check these are in good nick by touching the teeth on the sprockets. If they feel sharp, or they have a shark fin profile, it means the chain has worn out.

3) False alarms

Bike a bit grubby? Rusty cabling? Make sure you’re not missing out on a diamond in the rough by dismissing things that can be easily fixed. Seats, handlebar grips, brake pads and cabling are all easily replaceable, and a bit of mud or oil is nothing an old rag can’t fix.

4) Ask questions

You’ll learn a lot from the seller. When was the bike last serviced? How old is it? Was it used as a communal bike? This last one is a big red flag – if a house full of people have been using it, it’s probably not worth buying now.

5) Is it registered?

Check if the bike is already owned by someone by going to the bike register website. Look under the bike frame to find a framed code and type it in at the website. If it’s reported lost or stolen, it’ll say.

To check the person selling you the bike is the registered owner, ask them to log into their account there and then to show you their registration. Remember to then ask them to transfer the registration to you, as you can’t register the same bike twice.

 

Bonus tip:

Come to the workshop to volunteer. The best way to learn how to look after your bike is to learn to fix up our donated ones.

Find all of our second hand bikes for sale in the Bike Project Shop.

5 ideas for family biking fun in London this school holiday

Herne Hill Velodrome Holiday Club SE24
The much-loved Velodrome runs a long established and popular school holiday club for kids of 8-16, as well as (non-stabiliser) pedal bike sessions for 4-8 year olds, every Thursday 5-6pm and Saturday 1-2pm.
More information here

Richmond to Hampton Court bike ride
A West London family-friendly 8 mile jaunt, this route is manageable for all the family as it’s largely pretty flat. Either take the overground to Richmond or drive to Richmond Park and park the car there. You can cross over the river at Kingston and take in a bit of culture at Hampton Court Palace, before heading back to Richmond.

Track School Holiday Club, Lee Valley VeloPark E20
This club offers a full day course of fun games and activities to help riders (12-16yrs) progress and build confidence in track cycling. Cyclists will cover a range of basic skills including track etiquette, using track gradients and group riding skills finished off with basic track races. Limited places remaining.
More information here

Ride along the Regent’s Canal
Enjoy the colourful narrowboats in Little Venice, travel through Regent’s Park past the zoo, and onto buzzy Camden.
More information here

And finally, why not have a family bike clean and clearout?
Donate any old bikes to us at The Bike Project, and check out our range of secondhand bikes for all the family, including this Specialized Hotrock Girls 24″

SpecializedHotrock24%22

 

The Bike Shop

Drumroll please… we have just launched our very own online bike shop!

The Bike Shop

And these are the best bits about it:

– All proceeds go to The Bike Project to help get more refugees cycling
– The bikes are very affordable and significantly cheaper than buying a new bike
– We will deliver any adult bikes anywhere in the UK for free
– All the bikes have been lovingly refurbished by our professional mechanics and fitted with new parts when necessary to ensure they are almost as good as new.

Accessories available also!

Start shopping

THE BIKE PROJECT: AWARD WINNERS! HOORAY!

Words from LCC:

The Bike Project named Community Cycling Project of the Year

29th June 2015

The Bike Project was named Community Cycling Project of Year at the London Cycling Awards 2015 on 29th June.

At an event attended by the leading figures and organisations of London’s cycling industry, The Bike Project was officially honoured for its community spirit and efforts to bring cycling to a wider audience in the city.

Members of the public selected the project for their outstanding achievements, which are aimed at enabling refugees to access bikes, learn maintenance skills and attend workshops.

Over 15,000 votes were cast online – in categories that included Best Cycling Hangout, Cycling Event of the Year, Community Project of the Year, Youth Project of the Year and the Business by Bike Award – in recognition of the people, organisations and projects that make the wheels of the city turn around.

The London Cycling Awards celebrate the vitality of all things cycling in London. Our winners are pioneers who have strived to make our streets safer for cycling and to attract new cyclists,” said LCC Chief Executive Ashok Sinha.

They are businesses that are raising the bottom line through cycling and they are grassroots projects that are using cycling to improve lives, including for some of London’s most disadvantaged people.”

Cycling is a key tool for addressing the many quality of life, transport and environmental challenges London faces.

The ceremony was presented by broadcaster Jeremy Vine in the iconic surrounds of the ICA. “A tin of blue paint does not make a cycle superhighway,” said Jeremy Vine, a seasoned commuter in his introductory words, before going on to declare the feeling of cycling in London as “indescribable.”

– We’re chuffed to bits! –

Female Cycle Instructor

Calling All Female Cycle Instructors!

 

Female Cycle Instructor with The Bike Project. Help us teach refugee women to cycle!Have you recently qualified as a cycle instructor and fancy getting a bit of practice under your belt? (and are you a woman?)

Are you a well experienced instructor that could teach US a thing or two, and have a Tuesday morning to spare?

We’re running cycling lessons for refugee women who are completely new to cycling. This is an extremely fun and rewarding project, and we welcome anyone keen to help!

If you do fancy getting involved, please get in touch with Sarah: sarah@thebikeproject.co.uk

Women's Proj Flyer online high quality-01

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Jem and Silla

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