Blog Posts Archives - Page 4 of 4 - The Bike Project

Cycling, outreach, shortfalls and progress in migrant communities: A refreshingly acute discussion (by Ms Nicola Hill, dream volunteer and all round great egg)

Nicola Hill, dream volunteer for The Bike Project
As a professional who works in community engagement for cycling projects I couldn’t help but get frustrated by the lack of service
provision for migrant communities in London, so imagine my delight
when I came across The Bike Project!

The idea of up-cycling London’s many abandoned bikes seemed perfectly
logical and the numbers really do add up. At last, there are two other people (in Jem and Sarah)
who have made the connection between welfare, public health and
environmental initiatives. Not only this but they were were navigating
and seemingly freewheeling their way through what can seem like an
over-bearing system to deliver real benefit to refugees and asylum
seekers, some of London’s most destitute and deprived.

As a new migrant learning to live in London on limited funds a bicycle
is a vital lifeline, a precondition to feeling socially included and
successfully integrating intosociety as well being of great benefit
to health and mental well being. With a bicycle a refugee can
access food, social centers, lawyers, therapy sessions, medical
appointments as well as make it to those all important reporting
meetings at Home Office (for which no provision for travel expenses is

The Bike Project is also working to break down conventional barriers
to cycling for migrant communities. Sarah is currently running a
specific cycle training session for women who may never have had the
chance to cycle before or just do not feel confident cycling on
London’s streets. This really is pioneering.

TfL have long been aware of the differences in travel behaviour
between different minority groups, reporting that that 71% of London
residents from ethnic minority backgrounds say that they ‘never’
cycle, compared to just 57% of white Londoners, not to mention that
just 28% of cycle trips are made by women!

London is crying out for more ground breaking projects like
The Bike Project which increase cycling participation. The reasoning behind low
participation can be complex varying from group to group and some
barriers are easier to overcome than others. For example, when it
comes down to a language or inability to ride this can be overcome
with the provision of information and cycle training. However, other
reasons can be that people from the most disadvantaged communities are
more likely to live in an ‘obesogenic’ environment which discourages
walking and cycling and there are a lack of role models to raise awareness and
encourage community participation. These cultural constraints are
difficult to address. For example, in Hackney, though children
received cycle training at school, this was not sufficient to
encourage them to cycle outside or to/from school because their
parents, typically non-cyclists, did not consider cycling to be a
valid or safe mode of transport.

If more outreach and advocacy work like the Bike Project
is not undertaken across London then increases in cycle trip
frequency will only come from those who already cycle (predominantly
white, British) cycling more as opposed to engaging individuals from
harder to reach communities in changing their travel behaviour. This
is not sustainable.

Cyclists and non cyclists alike know that cycling offers many other
advantages to London as a whole including cleaner air, less noise and
fewer road traffic injuries, but more importantly, individuals who
travel actively feel more connected to their local environment,
especially the green spaces where communities can converge and become
more cohesive. This, I believe is where the real benefit is for asylum
seekers and refugees as new migrants, seeking to integrate and connect
with their new society.

The Bike Project is vital to not only changing attitudes and
behaviour, but also in addressing the growing importance of social
equity for all, which it is doing one bike at a time.

Jesuit Refugee Service Logo

Eva Boenders tells us a bit about life as a JRS visitor, and the enthusiasm there for bikes!

Jesuit Refugee Service Logo 

I like attending Thursdays at the day centre of Jesuit Refugee Service. I never know who will come along. There may be new visitors. Or visitors who have been coming for a long time. I may catch some in a good mood, and others may be sad or anxious.  No one Thursday is the same.  Over the years I have tried different things to brighten up the mornings and nurture the crowd. I partnered up with Pret-a-Manger which now distributes its surplus sandwiches to our day centre. I handed out international newspapers while people were waiting for the reimbursement of their bus pass. I created a log to record visitors’ qualifications and wishes. How would they like to spend their day – awaiting status?

Initially, mostly men were recording interest. When a few months ago, The Bike Project launched a Learn To Ride A Bicycle programme for female asylum seekers, it took me no time to get a list together of interested candidates. The thrill of learning a new skill and managing the London roads has boosted the confidence of many women whose asylum claims have dragged on and whose pain lingers. It has been a fantastic initiative to get the ladies out of the day centre and introduce them to freedom. Learning to ride a bicycle and keeping the bike at the end of the course, has made an incredible difference in the lives of some of our day centre users. It has been a brilliant way of bringing movement in their day and empowering them to earn their own transportation. Jesuit Refugee Service is excited to have found a partner in the Bike Project.

Thank you!

Eva Boenders
Outreach and Development
Jesuit Refugee Service – UK

DOST and The Bike Project

TBP + DOST = FUN FUN FUN! (words by Marian Spiers)

I’ve been bringing small groups of young people to The Bike Project for nearly 2 years now.  In this time, around 20 of the separated young people and migrants who we work with have benefited from a bicycle.  I work as the Youth Work Programme Manager at Dost ( www.dostcentre.orgin East London, and found out about the project through twitter.  I arranged to meet Jem, and have been taking young people to the project ever since.  It’s friendly, laid back and the young people enjoy the atmosphere. They get to learn new skills, meet new people, and receive a bike complete with all the safety equipment.

This gives them freedom, saves them money and improves their health and lifestyle.

Down at the workshop, it’s been really nice for our young people to meet other people from their own countries, volunteering and learning to fix bikes together.  One of the young people was also given the opportunity to go along and help at some corporate bike- repair fundraising sessions, for which he was paid and which greatly increased his confidence.

It’s a great project and provides a safe, welcoming space to everyone who comes along… it’s simple, easy and promotes recycling: turning something unwanted into something that is useful and beneficial to many.

Klevis Kola and The Bike Project

We paired up with Klevis Kola Foundation, a community organisation that supports refugee and asylum-seeking families. Words from Eleanor Brown (Education Outreach, Youth Club and Mentoring Co-ordinator)

Klevis Kola and The Bike Project


In the heat of August, the Bike Project and Klevis Kola Foundation converged on Tooting Bec Common for an afternoon of cycling together. Some of the group had never ridden a bike before but by the end of the afternoon, thanks to the support and encouragement of the Bike Project team, our two novices were gaining in confidence, able to stay upright, and were grinning from ear to ear. The rest of the group all hopped on bikes and took part in tests of their skill, races, and the freedom and joy that cycling brings. We had not told the group that they could take bikes home, wanting to make sure they were safe enough to do so before we offered them. All of the group could ride and were amazed when they were told they could keep their bike. The Bike Project kitted them out with helmets, lights and locks- everything they need to keep them safe.

One child had just had her 12th birthday and said her bike was her best present ever; another was keen to go home and share his new bike with his brother. An 18 year old was thrilled with the freedom it would now give him, meaning he could get to football training sessions quickly and for free, rather than weighing up the choice between an extremely long and slow bus ride versus the expense of a train. Many of the young people we work with are frustrated that they cannot afford to go to a gym, take exercise classes or swim as it is prohibitively expensive; having a bike will help them exercise and gives them a free social activity they can do with their friends. It also opens up the whole of London to them; one of our group was so excited at his new found freedom that he cycled from Crystal Palace to Tower Bridge, getting terribly lost on his way home, but delighted that his horizons are no longer limited to his small corner of South West London. All of our young people have asked us to say thank you to you all.

We at Klevis Kola Foundation are thankful for people like the Bike Project, taking a simple idea and turning it into something life changing.

Adam Francies - The Bike Project

A guest blog from the one and only Adam Francies

I remember first hearing about The Bike Project over three years ago. The simplest of ideas. Some people who have bikes don’t use them. And some people who don’t have bike would really appreciate them. Match the bikes to the people. Simple. And yet, there was a gap there for an idea. That idea has grown into what now is The Bike Project, and three years later, over 470 lives have been changed.

470 bikes. 470 helmets. 470 locks. 470 front lights and back lights.

470 refugees and asylum seekers have been given sustainable transportation. Saving 470 people money each day.

Thursday night workshops are always brilliant, especially during the long summer evenings. A mix of staff, volunteers, locals and beneficiaries coming together outside a small workshop in Hackney. Fixing bikes, exchanging stories, watching football and generally all moving towards a shared goal.

Adam Francies - The Bike Project

Guest Blog: David Janner-Klausner, Chair of The Bike Project.

Our web site has a quote from Helen Bamber OBE, who died last week aged 89:

“The Bike Project provides the first step into normal living for those who have faced persecution and atrocity”.

Helen was an early supporter of The Bike Project and more qualified than most to voice an opinion. She started working with Jewish refugees from the Nazi Holocaust in 1945 and never left this field of work, focusing on people displaced and dispersed under the worst of circumstances. In 1985 she founded The Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture to provide a specialist service for people coming to UK who carried the impact of torture with them. The mainstream medical services did not have the expertise or time to provide the holistic care needed – listening, translating, being a consistent haven and a place where confidence in the goodwill of people can gradually be rebuilt.

If I wish anything for The Bike Project which I am so proud to chair it is that we always aspire to also be this kind of place – a place that kindles confidence in goodness. Our team, led by Jem, exudes humanity and humour along with their outstanding commitment and professionalism. Our remit may be highly focused but our ambitions are great. We salute Helen Bamber; as is custom to say in the Jewish tradition, May her memory be a blessing.

David Janner-Klausner, Chair of The Bike Project

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Jem and Silla

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