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Free-wheelin' with Bristol Bike Project


James Lucas and Colin Fan have been running the Bristol Bike Project since the start of 2009. They repair old bikes and make them available to refugees and asylum-seekers in the city, keeping the bikes out of landfill and giving people with no income the freedom to travel. James and Colin invite people into their workshop to help finish off work on the bikes that have been donated, enabling folk to learn a bit of bike maintenance before they take them away.

Beginning in a back garden in January with a handful of bicycles, in April the pair relocated to Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, where to date they have restored and distributed over 100 bikes from their workshop there .

“I teach English at the Bristol Refugee Rights Drop-in Centre in Easton, and many refugees and asylum-seekers have to walk long distances to get to the Centre as they can’t afford public transport,” James tells me. “We wanted to give these people a sense of independence. By having a bicycle they will have more freedom to get around and hopefully it will make their lives that little bit easier.”

The Bristol Bike Project also works with recovering alcoholics, Big Issue vendors and mental health groups as well as The Salvation Army and SPAN (Single Parent Action Network). In the future, they are looking to get involved with youth and elderly groups.

James and Colin sell a small number of bikes at cheap prices to cover the rent for the property. The project is entirely voluntary, relying on donations of bikes and spare parts from the general public.

If you have any unwanted bikes the boys will gladly take them off your hands. “We would really appreciate donations of bikes in any state of repair, and any spare parts – preferably for adult bicycles as we aren’t working with any children’s groups at the moment,” James explains. “Any bikes that are beyond repair are recycled: frames and useful parts are passed on to (cycling community group) Spoke n’ Chain, and Katcha Bilek, who makes fashion accessories from unusable tyres and inner tubes.”

The pair have been overwhelmed by the public response they have received. James says: “Nowadays there is a lot of unfair and negative press surrounding refugees and asylum-seekers, but the feedback has been very positive. We really want to help people learn new skills that they will be able to share with their peers, and we feel privileged to be making a real difference to people’s lives.

“Every bike that is fixed and taken away is a great achievement, and 100 bikes means more people are being given freedom who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to own a bicycle.”

James and Colin are currently running the project every Wednesday and Thursday between 9.30am and 5.30pm.

If you’d like to get involved, send an email:

Written by Katie Neill

Published in The Spark issue 58 - autumn 2009

Details correct at time of going to press but may now have changed - please make your own checks

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