Transition Stroud Newsletter Editor Josephine Murray (JM) talks to James Beecher (JB), recently appointed Project manager at Stroud community bike workshop The Access Bike Project, part of the Creative Sustainability community interest company.
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JM: What prompted you to get involved with Access Bike? What’s your role there?
JB: I’m the new Project Manager at Access Bike. I support people, particularly young people and adults with additional needs, to learn how to fix bikes – which we receive as donations and either provide to volunteers or sell to help fund the project. Alongside this I’m working on partnerships and seeking funding to develop the project and its capacity to promote cycling and function as a youth space.
I’ve been a supporter of the project since it began in 2015. I’m particularly keen to be working with young people, who I think deserve more support in the aftermath of the pandemic given the impact restrictions have had on education and recreation – particularly coming on top of the cuts to youth services over the last decade or so. I really like the aspects of Access Bike that are about sharing skills and building community.
I’m a keen cyclist myself – I don’t drive so it’s my main form of transport as well as something I do for fun – and I want to see more people riding bikes because they are a sustainable form of transport. For that to happen, tackling financial barriers to owning or maintaining a bike is important.
JM: What were you doing before, in terms of work and interests, and how does this feed into what you’re doing at Access Bike?
JB: I was working as a Research Manager for Citizens Online, a digital inclusion and skills charity. Many of the barriers people face to making the most of the digital world are similar to those that we address at Access Bike – financial barriers, or disability, for example. Citizens Online involves ‘Digital Champions’ – people who can support others to develop their skills and confidence by working on the aspects of digital that are most relevant to their needs and interests, and this is not a million miles from the way in which mentors at Access Bike help people to develop their skills and confidence through working on bikes.
In terms of interests, I was involved in Transition Stroud for about 10 years, took part in the Camps for Climate Action and helped create a cyclist collective called Bicycology. As part of that work I provided some sessions in local secondary schools during Bike Week, which fed into the founding of Access Bike as a project. More recently, I’ve been volunteering with the Stroud Coronavirus Community Response. Through that time I’ve gained lots of insight into the challenges and potential of community action and promotion of cycling/climate action that I hope I can put to use. Perhaps I’ll bring back the pedal-powered film nights I used to host for Transition Stroud?
JM: Can you tell us more about Access Bike?
JB: We’re a community bike workshop based in Fromehall Mill (between Cainscross Road and Bath Road). We turn old bikes into opportunities for young and disadvantaged people, whilst promoting sustainability, creativity, friendship and green, healthy transport.
On Thursdays, young people aged 13 and over can drop-in to our workshop between 2pm and 6pm to hang out, fix bikes, build their own bikes, play games, and help others. Adults are welcome on Thursdays between 10.30 am and 1 pm. We don’t offer servicing, but we instead invite you into our workshop to learn to maintain your bike yourself, providing access to our tools and support. We have a small shop to sell refurbished bikes to help cover the cost of new parts.
By refurbishing donated bikes for sale and allowing free access to the workshop we look to remove any financial barriers to owning a bike.
We’re promoting cycling and recycling. In the past we’ve turned old parts into chandeliers and jewellery, as well as getting old bikes back on the road.
And it isn’t just about bikes – we also provide mentoring for disabled young adults and others facing challenges, including through links with another Creative Sustainability project: 3rd Space – a venue for 18-25 year-olds with a kitchen and music and art facilities.
JM: What future plans are there for Access Bike?
JB: This summer we’re running sessions on Wednesdays in August (3, 10, 17 and 24) as part of the Holiday Activity and Food Programme (aka HAF). These are for young people aged 12-16 receiving free school meals (unfortunately there isn’t room for carers or siblings not in this age bracket) and will involve some basic bike maintenance skills learning in the workshop, a gentle local flat bike ride, some fire lighting and campfire cooking, and a late lunch. Book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org You don’t need any special knowledge but must be able to ride a bike. Bring your bike if you have one, and a helmet -we have some you can borrow if you don’t have your own. Please wear practical clothing and shoes – working on bikes can be oily!
The workshop will also be open for young people to drop-in on Thursdays 2-6 pm and for 1-2 hour booked sessions (suitable for those new to the project or anyone who prefers a quieter session) on Tuesdays 2-6 pm. Book for the Tuesday sessions by messaging us on Facebook, emailing email@example.com, or texting 07582 104038.
On Thursdays in August (4, 11, 18, 25) between 10 am and 3 pm we’ll be at Archway School for Summer Cycling sessions run by Atlas Games/Atlas Camps. These are free drop-in and ride sessions for anyone aged 4 or over, plus an accompanying adult, to help improve riding ability, and have fun, whether they’re a beginner or a confident rider. Bring a bike, a helmet and a drink. We’ll be there to provide advice on maintaining your bike, and any on-site bike fixing. And for those receiving free school meals, we’ll be providing lunch. Let us know you’re planning to attend and ask any questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the future I’m planning to refresh the workshop, and will be looking for volunteers to help. I’d like to provide more cycle training, with a focus on confidence building. I’m also interested in working out how Access Bike can best contribute to the ecosystem of organisations working on promoting cycling locally, and help address the cost of living crisis affecting working class people.
JM: Are you involved with any sustainability or environmental initiatives outside Access Bike?
JB: I facilitate monthly discussions with Stroud Radical Reading Group, which often includes talking about books or other material addressing sustainability or environmental issues – or social movements and the ways in which they organise.
JM: Whereabouts do you live and what do you like about the area?
JB: I live near the centre of town, and grew up outside Bisley. It’s maybe a strange thing for a cyclist to say but I like the hills, and the valleys of course! I like living in a place where people look out for each other – with a history of successful community action.
JM: What do you do in your spare time?
JB: Help my son learn to cycle! I do like things other than bikes, but we do like to ride out onto the commons, into the woods or along the canals as a family.
|Three Things You Can Do Today|
1. Donate: People can donate money online at accessbike.org/donate. If you’ve like to donate a bike, please email first – send a photo of your old bike to email@example.com, and we can check it’s something we can make use of and arrange a time for you to drop it off. If you’re interested in volunteering, email to let me know when you could help and what you’d like to offer, and we can arrange a chat.
2. Buy a second-hand bike from Access Bike. There are some examples of what we have on our Instagram and Facebook page. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you’re looking for and to arrange a time to visit us.
3. Get in touch if you’d like to be cycling (more) but something is getting in the way – maybe we can help? I’d be really interested in conversations with people about how we can support and promote cycling locally. Email email@example.com or text or call me on 07842 104038.
Find out about more local Stroud Transitioneers
If you would like to share your sustainable living story, please contact Josephine on firstname.lastname@example.org