bicycles Archives - The Bike Project

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.

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.

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.

Ahmad with bike

Riding on a smile: a Syrian refugee and his bike

Riding on a smile: a Syrian refugee and his bike

Ahmad, a Syrian refugee, with his bike

Ahmad, a Syrian refugee, with his bike

 

Getting around London is expensive for everyone, let alone for a refugee living on the weekly government asylum allowance of £36.95. A London travelcard (zones 1 and 2) costs £32.10 a week.

Whilst seeking asylum, it is vital that people are able to access essential legal, medical and other support services around London, on top of paying for food and other necessities.

It’s a lot to cover with just £36.95.

This is Ahmad’s story.

Ahmad is 33 years old, and came to London a year ago after fleeing violence and persecution in his homeland, Syria. This is a plight sadly shared by over 8,000,000 Syrians since 2011.

When Ahmad arrived in London, he was a stranger in an unfamiliar city, and had no one to turn to for help and support.

For Ahmad, getting to and from important places, such as the supermarket and the doctors was a huge challenge on his meagre budget of £36.95 a week.

One evening, Ahmad attended a community support meeting and was told about The Bike Project. Given his first impressions of London, he was intrigued to hear that someone he’d never met would give him a bike for free.

After looking up The Bike Project online, he headed down to the workshop in Denmark Hill where he was greeted by ‘happy, smiling people’.

A couple of hours later, Ahmad rode away on his new bike, setting himself the rather bold target of navigating his way back to north London.

Thinking back, Ahmad tells me: ‘I felt welcome; welcome and accepted.’

From the moment his foot touched the pedal, Ahmad felt like a new man. He loved the freedom and experience of cycling around London. Importantly, Ahmad now spends the money he saves on transport, on food and other necessities.

Having a bike has given him the opportunity to experience this unique city in a personal way, instead of spending his precious allowance on transport.

Ahmad now rides up to 30 miles a day and knows London better than most of its inhabitants. He has friends in Finsbury Park, Portobello Road and Kentish Town and can now visit them regularly – he’s fit as a fiddle.

He’s also been back to The Bike Project to service his bike and to volunteer his services, helping other refugees to get a bike.

It is clear in Ahmad’s voice that having a bike has made a real difference to his life – as he himself gleefully exclaims before we say goodbye:

“I LOVE my bike!”

 

 

3 ways you can support The Bike Project and help other refugees like Ahmad:

Visit the Bike Shop

Sponsor a bike

Donate an old bike

All donations and money made from selling refurbished bikes go back into funding the Bike Project and helping more refugees.

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Remember all profits go towards keeping refugees cycling!

Jem and Silla

Thank you!

 

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