We love cycling as it adds to our sense of freedom, independent mobility and sustainability. For people living in precarious circumstances, these same qualities can make bicycles a life-changing asset, by improving access to basic essentials.
Critical Mass to Calais
Last year Critical Mass organised an event which saw eighty cyclists ride seventy miles through London and Kent and on to Calais. On arrival at the “Jungle” camps they left their bicycles and tents for the use of the migrants who live there. Julian Sayarer, one time record holder for fastest circumnavigation by bicycle, was one of the participants. In his account of the ride, he explains, “Bicycles, judging by the constant stream being pedalled from the Jungle to Calais, are an invaluable aid in lives that have already been made unbearably difficult”.
The camp sits just beyond a motorway bridge a five-mile round trip from the distribution centres. Bicycles make daily movements manageable to access aid, services and asylum offices turning an exhausting and dehumanising five-mile walk into a swift ride.
The Bike Project
London based The Bike Project receive donations of second-hand bikes, fix them up in their workshop, and then donate them to asylum seeking refugees in the capital. Beneficiaries are encouraged to attend the workshop to get actively involved in the process and learn basic bike maintenance to improve self sufficiency. The Project also provides cycle training to women refugees in an all female environment to open up the benefits of cycling to as many refugees as possible.
London is a city that is rich in opportunities. A bike can help people reach the many resources that London has to offer: charities that can feed them, lawyers that can aid their application process, home office appointments, healthcare, education and much more. If they are lucky enough to receive status, a bike can help them find employment.
Anyone wishing to help can find out more here. You can donate a bicycle, money, or your time.
Another UK based charity transforming lives with bicycles is the Krizevac Project, through its Elephant Bike initiative.
The charity employs youth offenders to strip down and refurbish unused Royal Mail delivery bikes, building skills and gaining qualifications in the process. The bikes are then put up for sale at www.elephantbike.co.uk. Each bike purchase funds the shipment of a second bike to Malawi, where they provide sustainable transport and create employment opportunities.
These type of initiatives may seem far removed from elite-level cycling, but the two worlds come together in the form of Team Dimension Data, who ride in support of the Qhubeka project, funding bicycles to change lives in Africa. Qhubeka is an Nguni word that means “to move forward”. The charity believes that mobilising people with bicycles can create access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity. Find out more here.