Cycle of life: community bike sheds
How pre-loved bicycles and a little know-how can help turn lives around.
It’s a cool spring afternoon in Brunswick East and Kim Mitchell is tinkering around with a step-through commuter bike. Her mum is in town and the bicycle they’ve borrowed needs the seat adjusted. But neither Kim nor her bike-lending friend had the right tool. So they’ve dropped in here at the CERES Bikeshed, a community resource centre that helps people assemble, fix and maintain their bicycles.
“When I first moved to Melbourne three years ago I started commuting to work every day,” recalls Kim, who works for the Red Cross. “I have an older bike and I wanted to learn how to service it myself – doing things like adjusting gears, replacing brake pads.”
Lacking the tools or know-how, she began showing up on weekends at the Bikeshed, where people volunteer in the spirit of learning by doing. “I started learning how to do all those things and, I guess in the process, learnt that I’m quite happy for someone else to do the bigger jobs! But it was a great experience to just understand what tools are required, what would constitute a complex job, what was simple, what was something that I was able to manage.”
The CERES Bikeshed is one of the oldest bike resource centres in Victoria, but it’s by no means the only one. As cycling grows in popularity, bike repair centres are mushrooming. Social media is also helping communities create skill-sharing networks, and recycling-minded people are converting unwanted pushies into transport for the needy.
Surrounded by public-housing high-rises in Collingwood, Second Chance Cycles has been giving people who have been in trouble with the law a fresh start in the business of bike repair since 2009. This community program is part of the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO), which is supported by the RACV Community Foundation, City of Yarra, Bendigo Bank, Equity Trustees and local bike shops.