This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 18/09/2017.
Re-using bikes: in Croydon, recycling means exactly what it says
Just a little story to share with you.
One of the original projects on the Croydon ReUse site was a social enterprise that would make use of unwanted bikes. These would either be donated machines from the public or cycle shops where they had done a trade-in. Or, believe it or not, where the shop had lost the pre-assembly parts and it’s too much hassle to re-order them and the machine would go to the back of the storage yard until, one day, they have a clear out and the machine, now covered in dust, is thrown out. It was to be a youth offenders type project with the repaired or re-conditioned machines put on sale at very affordable prices.
For reasons that I never truly found out, this project never happened but the idea behind it and the environmental-ness of it was logged in my mind for future reference. Also, unbeknown to me, the recycle leader had been collecting bikes over the months and had them stashed at different locations around town and in conversation with various people about the re-use project I built up a picture of where these bikes were being stowed. Hmmmm. An opportunity to make the bike recycling idea happen became more to the forefront of my mind and I followed up one of the leads about a quantity of machines stowed in a shopping centre unit. Unfortunately, they had already been dealt with and that door closed.
Then one-day a round-robin email came in about a quantity of the bikes being stowed and that if they were not removed by such and such would be taken to Factory Lane and dumped. Bingo! The door had opened a little bit. So, on enquiring and going to see the bikes I was then faced with the issue of removing some 60 bikes and storing them until a plan could be hatched. Now, Mrs Green Croydon is very patient with my projects (and vice versa) but even she would not be impressed if she came home to find bikes stashed all over the house. Therefore, storage was a big issue. I pulled in a few favours and a van was loaned, then a container space was made available, and with the help of one of our brilliant community volunteers we moved around sixty machines to the container, closed the door, locked it and I went away and tried to forget about the problem I had just made for myself. This was December 2016 and I said that the container would be freed up by March 2017. How I figured that out was, at this stage, sheer bluff, but it got me the breathing space at least.
I felt that I’d just had my tyres inflated when I got the news
Many conversations later and one of them came to fruition: the Wandle Trust and their Get Active project were looking to buy bikes. They liked the idea that these bikes had been prevented from going to the dump, and agreed to take a quantity once a bike engineer had checked over the machines and selected those best-suited to their project. This happened and around a dozen machines were taken, the funds to buy bikes were used to repair them and make them ready for use and are in use for that project – now for the rest. The Wandle Trust then agreed to put in a funding bid to finance a project to restore the other machines by young people over several workshops at the ReUse site with the intention that for attending they would then keep the bike they had worked on. Alas, the bid was declined and I was back to square one. A project with young Albanians doing the workshops also came to nothing when communications dried up.
So the days and weeks passed, the bluffed March deadline came and went, and then a chance conversation with a leader of the Tollers Estate Residents group led to the answer: they’d take the whole lot for their residents to have a project to do. Then, an even greater piece of luck: Ross Cycles agreed to support them in the project with parts, repairs and advice as they liked the idea so much. I felt that I’d just had my tyres inflated when I got that news.
So it just goes to show that with a bit of persistence and effort, good community stuff can happen.
On to the next project.