Shining a spotlight on Resilience in Transport
10th August 2015
The Resilience Spotlight is an initiative of the Bristol Resilience Network, which is part of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. Every month in 2015, we have invited nominations for someone in the city who demonstrates how we can work at a local level to develop Bristol’s capacity to respond to shocks and stresses.
This month’s theme was Transport and we were looking for someone who shows how you can encourage a shift to low carbon transport by reducing reliance on fossil fuels in an inclusive way. James Lucas, who founded the inspirational Bristol Bike Project with Colin Fan in December 2008, is an excellent example.
The Bristol Bike Project
Today the Bristol Bike Project is a well-established, comprehensive, community bike project with both a community arm and a trading arm based in Stokes Croft. It started on a very small scale - on return from a trip to Norway, James and Colin wanted to
do “something benevolent involving bikes” which would help disadvantaged people. Through his voluntary work with Bristol Refugee Rights, James realised that the lack of affordable public transport was a real barrier to travelling around the city for refugees and asylum seekers. So, he and Colin decided to get people to donate unwanted bikes and were amazed at the amount of donated bikes that came in! They involved marginalised people who needed affordable transport in refurbishing the donated bikes. People who came to the project learnt basic bike mechanic skills in the process and earned a bike at the end.
The project now offers a whole range of services and has three full time and 10 part time employees. It also involves between 50 and 100 volunteers, all of whom benefit from the project in different ways. It is a social enterprise, run as a worker co-operative, with 10 directors who are answerable to the members.
- Transport – getting around by bike reduces reliance on fossil fuels. In the early days of the project, for most people, journeys by bike replaced journeys on foot. These days, the project also offers support for anyone wanting to cycle including affordable reconditioned bikes, courses in bike maintenance and in bike servicing. This promotes cycling and makes it accessible to many more people.
- Reuse and recycling is central to the project. They aim to reuse every working component and recycle worn out and damaged parts. If they can keep it out of landfill, they do! Thousands of bikes have passed through the project since 2008.
- Community cohesion – the project welcomes people from all walks of life and has developed a real sense of community. James considers that people connecting and relating to each other face to face is vital for resilience. People are more equipped for shocks and stresses when they know each other and can face challenges together.
- Self reliance – James believes that cycling regularly tends to engender a certain type of resilience – you power the bike yourself and are not dependent on fossil fuels to get around. It improves your physical fitness and mental health which makes you more resilient.
- Individual resilience – Dean, a recovering addict, is a great example of how volunteering at the bike project has helped in his recovery and helped him become more resilient. Read Dean’s story.
Emanuelle from Zambia says that:
“Being in Bristol with no source of income at the moment, having a bicycle means I can get to places I couldn’t otherwise go. Because of my immigration status, I have to report to the police station at Patchway every other week – a 16 mile round trip from my home in Brislington and with no money for a bus it was very difficult to get there.”
He also says cycling helps him in the stressful situation he is in as when he gets too stressed, getting on the bike and cycling makes him feel better. He also wants to get fitter and aims to ride on four days a week.
The project has been developed to be self sustaining, not reliant on external funding or on any one person. Money generated by the trading activities feed back into the community activities. James stressed the importance of having directors with different skill sets including: regular accounting, financial forecasting and business development.
Whereas not everyone is able to set up a project, James thinks that most people can help the city become more resilient by walking, cycling or using public transport rather than driving for short journeys. He considers that more high quality cycling infrastructure would help to get more people to walk and cycle instead of driving. He also thinks measures to make driving in the city less appealing such as a congestion charge would help more people to choose to walk, cycle or take public transport.
Sara Basterfield, Sustainable Transport Consultant and member of the Bristol Resilience Network notes: “James has very successfully and gradually developed a resilient and self sustaining project by involving others and creating a culture of learning and sharing skills. The project demonstrates resilience in many ways including: a strong community, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, improving people’s mental and physical health and cohesion.”
Much more information about the project including how to get involved and sign up for their newsletter is available on the project’s website.
(Next Month’s theme is Energy – to nominate someone who encourages a shift to low carbon methods – reducing reliance on fossil fuels – in an inclusive way, e-mail email@example.com
- Capacity building – developing confidence, skills, knowledge and ability in that theme
- Progress – moving that particular agenda and its reach forward and outward
- Multi- modal – impacts more than just that one theme
- Replicable and inspiring – projects/work that encourage other people to get involved and can easily be copied