At the end of my second year of university I was depressed and suddenly it was the holidays and I didn’t have university work to distract me so I had to do something and fast. I started volunteering at three different places, Oxfam books, Oxfam music and
Reading Bicycle Kitchen. The first two I had know about before but RBK I hadn’t, I had cycled past it but didn’t really know what they were about. I went in to borrow a bike pump and then asked what they were. They are a not for profit community project that helps the community to get cycling by making it accessible and affordable. I then asked if I could volunteer and they said yes! For me to come any Tuesday for an induction…it took several Tuesdays before I managed to get the courage to go but after that I was there pretty much four days a week from 6 till 9, even when university started again and I should have been doing essays or something.
Anyway I don’t quite know how to do a blog post on Bicycle kitchens (they are also know as bicycle cooperative, community bike shop, bicycle collective) without going on an on because I did write nearly 10,000 words on Reading Bicycle Kitchen and community resilience.
My dissertation incase you want some light reading:
final dissertation v.2
Their aims are to get people on bicycles and they do this by:
- taking in bicycle donations from the public that in the majority of cases would have ended up in landfill and volunteers rebuilding them to then sell to the public for a low price. In RBK they sold from £20 and kids bikes from £5. When you buy a cheap second hand bike from gumtree or ebay you can’t be guaranteed that the bicycle won’t need work which would be more expensive to get fixed at a bike shop than getting a new one.
- they provide tools and expertise for the public to come in and hire a work bench for a low fee. They get paired up with a volunteer, the volunteer then teaches them how to fix their bike so that the customer is not only getting a working bike but also the knowledge on how to fix it. (on a side note: customers often find that its easier than they thought to fix their bike!)
Benefits of bicycle kitchens:
- Like mentioned above they get people cycling and by doing so they are increasing the number of people on bikes which is great for the environment because it is a sustainable form of transport. And it also creates healthier roads and healthier air.
- Divert bicycles going to landfill by taking in donations and helping people fix their own bicycles so that it’s cheaper to fix than to buy a new argos bike. Some bicycle donations were too far gone so they were stripped and used a parts, this means that it is cheaper for a customer to replace a wheel but also they are using a second hand part instead of a brand new wheel which is made from new resources.
- By providing a service where tools can be hired it takes away the necessity for people to buy their own tools so reducing how much of earths recourses are used.
- Volunteering can increase people wellbeing, RBK does this very well by giving opportunities for the volunteers to be altruistic but also the volunteers learn a lot from other fellow volunteers and it’s this learning that is vital for continual human growth and wellbeing. It also provides opportunities for people to be social which is also very good for wellbeing.
- What I found out during my interviews of RBK volunteers is that they found immense fulfilment of volunteering their time to teach the community but also they felt part of a community, the volunteer community in RBK.
- Creating a community where people can reach out to each other. Safety nets are crucial in increasing community resilience.
- RBK also gave volunteers the agency that if someone couldn’t afford the fee to fix their bike then the fee can be removed.
Here is a map with all the bicycle cooperatives, volunteer or go and learn more about your bike!
A little snipped from my dissertation:
This has led Ozanne & Ozanne, (2016) to research alternative consumer markets and how they build community resilience, they found that they created communication system which created bridging social capital which led to self organisation, pooling of resources and “willingness to engage in collective action” (Ozanne & Ozanne, 2016, p24). During the research an earthquake occurred, this allowed the researchers to see how the capacities that had been built allowed for quick response through communication and links created before the disaster, and they were particularly good at identifying vulnerable individuals and mobilise resources to them (Ozanne & Ozanne, 2016). Other examples are the positive impact on volunteers and other participants from a school garden kitchen (Townsend et al.,2014:Henryks, 2011); the experiences of a community cycling initiative on the urban youth in Philadelphia and how they gained skills and knowledge as well as saying that were more likely to cycle due to their experiences (Hoffman et al.,2014); a recycling cooperative created in Sao Paulo and how it created capacity building and through participation, empowerment (Tremblay, 2010); through using the bicycles from Re-Cycle UK, a physically disabled run bicycle cooperative in Ghana was created which gave opportunities, “Due to my disability, I found it hard to get a job, but now I am an administrator and salesperson at Ability Bikes, and I have my own place to live” (Cooperative in Ghana, 2014, p64).
Expect more on bicycle kitchens and how awesome they are!!