Goodwill on Two Wheels

The Bike Project is run by former refugees and mechanics, who work with new refugees to fix up donated bikes. PHOTO: The Bike Project

The Bike Project is run by former refugees and mechanics, who work with new refugees to fix up donated bikes. PHOTO: The Bike Project

13,500 refugees flee to London each year. In that same period, around 27,500 bikes are abandoned. Just one of these abandoned bikes can help a refugee save 20 pounds a week on bus fare. That’s 1,040 pounds a year. Having fixed, donated, and helped refugees maintain over 300 bikes, The Bike Project is turning the wheels of goodwill and community development.

“A bike makes all the difference to a refugee,” says Morpurgo. “Whilst going through the long and drawn-out asylum process, a refugee is provided with only £36 a week to live on, is not allowed to work, and therefore forced to rely on charitable support. Most refugees are placed right on the outskirts of London, so have very long distances to travel in order to access the resources they need.”

Throughout the week, project mechanics work on donated bikes “to make them almost ship shape.” Then, at the public workshop run every week in Denmark Hill, South London, the volunteers and regular mechanics work with the refugees to fix up punctures and repair brakes and gears.

Given that these are the most likely things to go wrong, these sessions provide good training for future maintenance. At the end of one or two sessions, attendees take a bike, along with a new helmet, lights, and lock. Volunteers who know how to work on a bike are encouraged to just come along and help.

Read more on how the project is also helping remove barriers imposed by gender.

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