Yesterday I attended a design workshop with the Eco-Design centre. It was up to their usual excellent standard. Comfortably informal, slightly chaotic and thoroughly engaging, we analysed and critiqued waste streams, looking for opportunity and enhancement, reduction and removal. At the end of the session the great question remained: How does society stimulate a demand for its perceived waste? Ideally we’ll all get turned on to consuming less and discarding little, but for the time being at least, millions of tonnes of potentially re-usable waste will be generated each year. Distressingly, the Scottish Government compiled a list of the top 20 items that wind up in civil amenities and the bicycle featured prominently. It needn’t be that way. Especially with bikes, a fact that had been ably reinforced less than 24 hours earlier.
On Wednesday I was rummaging around in my garage. Being half Human, half womble, it resembles Steptoe’s backyard. Old strip lighting lies haphazardly across the beams, tired old warhorses prop up cobwebbed corners, a blackened BBQ set awaits the return of summer. But it was the old warhorses that I was after. They were destined for brighter, better things in the capable hands of Jon and his team at the Cycle training workshop (CCW), the recycling centre for Cycle Training Wales and a not for profit social enterprise. With a stated mission to ‘increase access to cycling and reduce the number of bikes going onto the scrapheap’, my old Kona, Mrs N’s old Clockwork Orange and a ludicrously garish pink girl’s bike (which Evelyn LOVED), could only go here. CCW are good at what they do. In fact they’re very good at what they do, winning an Innovation in Recycling award at the Wales Recycling Awards 2011, exactly one year after its inception. In essence, CCW take unwanted and abandoned bikes recondition them and sell them back to the public. Volunteers support the team’s activities, gaining valuable bike maintenance skills and on the job training, whilst unloved bikes find loving new owners. A win/win/win situation.
It’s always a joy popping over to CCW. There’s something thoroughly enjoyable about a bike workshop and I’ve no idea what it is. Perhaps it’s the scent of tyre rubber waiting to roll, or the acrid tang of GT85, but a workshop is where all that two wheeled freedom starts and often ends (for me, at least). Despite the ‘pre-loved’ condition of my bikes, the donations were gratefully received without even a raised eyebrow. I was grateful for this, as despite a love of all things velo, some of my bikes get a horribly rocky ride and frankly, deserve a little better. Nothing a 4 hour overhaul wouldn’t sort, but nonetheless, they would benefit with a little more TLC and now they’ll get it; the bikes will be stripped down, built up and – hopefully – sold on. Whilst Glynnis a volunteer at CCW soldiered on and her dog padded around – a genuine workshop dog if ever there was one – Jon thrust a cup of tea into my grateful hands before we kicked around some ideas and hatched a plot or two. It’s always dangerous when you get a couple of zealots in the same room and as a former messenger, organiser of Papergirl Cardiff, Harris Hack co-conspirator (with Alistair of Cardiff Cycle Chic) and current Triathlete, Jon is very like minded. We both know that the path to true enlightenment involves two wheels and that cyclists are essentially intelligent, smart, funny people who deserve tax breaks, free beer in pubs and reflexology after a hard day in the saddle. Of course as a fellow cyclist, you’ll know all this already. 🙂
I felt a faint tinge of sadness as I passed on these old bikes. They’d been loyal servants, dutifully carrying the burden of loaded panniers and transporting us around the Welsh capital. But it was time they were pressed into fresh action, with appreciative new owners. Give it a few weeks and you might just bag a refurbed bargain – why not contact CCW to find out?
CCW provide recycle bikes, provide volunteer training services, Dr bike mobile maintenance service and a host of other bike related services. You can contact Jon via the CCW website. Similar social enterprises can be found in other parts of the UK, including the excellent Bristol bike project.