Stop nodding

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Nothing strengthens the authority so much as silence.

Leonardo da Vinci 

It is extremely difficult to explain certain things to the people who really are not trained; nor prepared for this matter; to use their common sense and a genuine reasoning.

You see it is difficult to realise a potential that lays behind a change. Behavioural, social and economic change never came without effort, sweat and tears. We had an amazing privilege of dealing with the number of authorities in and beyond Leeds; some of them initially extremely eager to help. But what really is a pattern is the general apathy of any services that are simply responsible for a well being of Leeds’ residents.

Take Leeds City Council for starters. Amazed by the fact that someone can actually do what we do and do it for free. As soon there is free involved everyone jumps on the bandwagon, eager to support, keen to mention and willing to plaster the numerous publications with your name. When you wish any additional support requiring someone to do anything apart from smiling and nodding the problems start.

Take the local charities for seconds. Amazed by the fact that we wished to be a part of their summer program; free was the keyword again. Numerous emails later no response, project coordinators ignoring our emails, absolutely no contact. Needless to say that the charity in question is heavily supported by the Leeds City Council.

Take local councillors for laters. Supporting our cause with smiles and nodding (see the pattern there?). Promising contacts and to spread the word. Admiring the project and even visiting us when we were a part of a local community centre fun day. No response to specific requests or applications. Quite frankly working for the Leeds City Council.

Leeds City Council proved to be absolutely useless in whatever they promised. All but one departments (thanks for your visit Janice) we had a chance to deal with were simply a bunch of ignorants unable to connect with anything past the edge of their desks. A local representative who used to pay an extremely regular visits ceased his will to come by and ask about issues. He avoids our door on his ’rounds’. The local housing office is simply uninterested in any of the local issues. The regional office is simply oblivious to any real life issues. Shameful to be perfectly honest.

And then you have a local, small projects that simply care. The previously supporting us Derbyshire local councillors, the currently supporting us local TARA Moorside community centre, the local families supporting us daily, food and clothing projects donating, schools enquiring, further afield charities sending donations, local projects supporting and cooperating and even the Leeds based waste tips lending a helping hand. Leeds City Council still demanding us to jump through their set unrealistically high hoops…

But the children of Leeds are riding our bikes. And that what really makes the change. Thanks everyone!

‘…I want to ride my bicycle…’

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The average family earning minimum wage spends 141 percent of their income struggling to meet basic needs – food, shelter, clothing. 

Sherrod Brown

We met Labbonti today. He was a bit late but he said that he has had a busy night last night. We patiently listened to his story. He lived in Wales in a flat belonging to his sister. She passed away and he, unable to meet the financial expectations, had to leave. He came to Leeds a while a go and slept rough since. We met him today but we already met before too.

His person, especially the state of his bike, was brought to our attention by a message on our social media page. A random passer-by was touched and brought to tears by his bicycle. We browsed the area to meet him and arrange the meet up. When we met him his bike was indeed in a bit of a state…

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We talked to him and arranged for the weekend visit to make his ride ride again. His front wheel did not have a tyre on. Nor an inner tube. The brakes did not work, the brake pads were missing, gears did not work, cables and outers were broken. The bottom bracket and the headset were all over the place as well. The bike was a death trap.

Labbonti met us exactly where and when agreed. He came on his bike; you could hear him from the distance- the front rim making the metal grinding against the tarmac sound. We replaced the front wheel, put an inner tube on, put a tyre on, fixed his brakes, adjusted gears, replaced the outers and cables, tightened the bottom bracket, tightened the handlebars, tightened the saddle, tightened the seatpost… All this for a fist pump. And a massive smile.

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When he rode away we saw him grinning like a kid, swerving from one side to another, keeping his feet off the pedals… He enjoyed his bike. He acted like we all did at once- that day when we received a new bike- he enjoyed the ability to travel freely, the happiness, the wind in the hair…

You see this is the time when you give someone something more than a bicycle.

We gave him freedom…

One shall change regardless!

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 It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

Frederick Douglass

It was a bit of a busy bank holiday weekend at The Bikes College. We had some familiar faces visiting with the typical “My tyre’s popped!” and some new faces too. K. popped in one day to ask if we could swap a frame and wheels for him on his BMX. He brought T. with him, his BMX riding buddy, cheerful and keen to help. We set the time and the date, and got prepared for a bike strip/bike build. The fun begun…

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T. and K. worked together from the very beginning, supporting and helping each other with various tasks; i.e. tyre replacement, inflating the tubes, etc. They worked hard together and the old BMX was disassembled, new frame assembled, new wheels put on, tyres pumped and the bike ready to go within 3 hours. When questioned about the spare frame and the wheels that K. had left from his original BMX he stated that he might (quote: ‘possibly’) donate them to T. so he can upgrade his own BMX shortly. It is a great example of how the local kids start working together and share things amongst each other for the benefit of all. K. and T. live nearby, they do not go to the same school and know each other only by the means of riding together. They have also built a bike together as of today.

Another sideline story that gives us the reason to be proud of K. is the fact that he had a free bicycle he got from us initially. He then got his bmx given to him by his parents. He gave his old bicycle, then surplus to requirements, away for free to someone on his street. Then he came to us to upgrade his frame and wheels. The old bmx will most likely be given away. For free. Again.

There is that amazing feeling of accomplishment that accompanies our sessions recently. That amazing feeling of fulfilment and ability to change mindsets. To breed behaviours. To inspire. To initiate change. That is what we do you see, we change them. Without them knowing. And it feels great!

Ownership makes it personal

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Nobody washes a rental car.

Scott J. Simmerman Ph. D.

It takes a lot of bonding to create a possessive relationship known as ownership. The tears, the sweat, the tiredness and the workmanship are required to achieve the end product.

Repairing or building a bike is a great example. It is a process which takes time, commitment and then some more time and commitment. Through these two we learn that love/hate relationship with our own bicycle. We love it as it is like a child of our own- we grew it, we moulded it, we made it what it is. We hate is as it gave us headaches and sleepless nights, it made us bankrupt on numerous occasions and it also jeopardised the future of our relationships with friends, partners, family and the rest of the world… That demanding love/hate relationship creates something that  no money can buy; it is something that is possible to create using only time and attachment.

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It is a difficult task to create that kind of attachment amongst the youngsters these days. The process starts when you give them something that can care for; give the man a fish saying springs into our minds again. We give them a bike- refurbished and recycled mean of transport which they need to look after and cherish like their own. It never cost them anything but that is the reason why they appreciate it so much- it is a gift, not a purchase. They learn how to look after it, how to repair it, how it works and how to know when it fails.

The journey starts when a kid gets a bicycle from us. They come over and work with us to make it safe and ready to go. They set the brakes up, they set the gears up, they repair a puncture. That gives them time to appreciate what they initially received and to look after it. This is the beginning of a journey. Within few hours one can tell if the bike someone is working on will be appreciated…

They study; they learn; they build; they appreciate; they love.

Get on yer bike!

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“…revolution will be mobilised…”

We are surrounded by means of transport that rely on perishable resources. One who needs to travel needs to exchange their resources to obtain the means of travel. In plain English it is money that you pay for travelling by means of transport destined to collapse upon the oil reserves drying out.

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You see a bicycle is different. It gives you the only chance to be independent and as transport savy as one can get. It also does not leave you addicted to consumable resources that you cannot replace. It gets you mobile regardless of the political or economical state of affairs. It also gets you smiling and keeps you physically active and fit. When the bad times come you can turn the broken/malfunctioned/faulty bicycle into a smoothly running machine using only handfull of tools and a bit of maintenance knowledge. When the bicycle gives in entirely you can find places that will accept it as a donation and refurbish it to pass it onto the next lucky owner; just like we do.

You see a bicycle is different. Ironically it brings people together despite the fact it is not a form of public transport. It gets people mobile and happy. It supports the transport and mindset revolution that is happening all around the world. You see a bicycle is different- it mobilises that revolution. Hop on your bike and be a part of the mobilised revolution.