Pro-Bike Service has offered affordable repairs and maintenance training for a number of years. The service operates from a shipping container, which means it is a moveable workshop that can be placed on meanwhile sites (areas in line for development but currently unused).
The workshop became so popular that Lawrence (who runs the project) applied to Cycling Grants London for funding to expand its capacity and move into a larger and more comprehensively equipped shipping container.
The workshop provides a number of services to customers, and acts as a community cycling shop based on a gift economy. Pro-Bike Service offers repairs, maintenance, learning sessions and some second-hand bike building for charity groups. There are volunteers who help out generally in the workshop, but also focus on restoring second-hand bikes for refugees to use.
One of the key aims of the project is to make cycling accessible to those with lower incomes by making bike repair and maintenance more affordable. For example, repairs are often carried out using donated second-hand parts. The donated parts are processed, checked for safety, and provided in repairs at a fraction of the price of new parts. In this way, valuable materials are also diverted from the waste stream. Of course new parts are used where necessary, such as brake and gear cables. Customers are then encouraged to pay what they can for labour costs. This allows labour time for those on lower incomes to be subsidised by those who are more able to pay, in addition to income from selling second-hand parts.
The workshop also runs learning sessions where attendees learn how to maintain their bikes, reducing the cost of bike ownership. As an additional income stream, sessions can also be booked by corporate organisations for staff. This income is then redirected to providing training and repairs to those on lower incomes.
Beneficiary (Local Syrian man who accepted delivery of bikes to refugee families) said: “Sorry I didn't get the chance to tell you how grateful we all are for the wonderful service you're providing for the refugee families, they are thrilled with their bikes and making the most of them".
Jarno Crippa (Beneficiary) said: “When I moved to London, I was desperately looking to volunteer in a bike workshop. I could not find an association in London until I discovered the Hackney Bike Workshop. I met Lawrence in one of their sessions who like me, was volunteering there. I really admired straight away how easily and fast Lawrence was at helping clients to fix bikes, and at the same time was relaxed enough to chit chat with the other mechanics and clients. I joined Lawrence and the Pro Bike Service project. Through the humble bicycle, we can overcome barriers between communities (particularly distinct in London) and I have also loved taking part in the gift economy. Being able to practise my skills with the support of a very experienced mechanic and engineer has also further increased my passion for cycling and ability to help others”.
The workshop is located on or around Olympic Park, with the aim of providing a service to the increased number of cyclists using the park, and encouraging those from surrounding boroughs to get on their bikes, and stay on their bikes through affordable repairs. The workshop is currently on the move from its first site, at the Mobile Garden City on the corner of Honour Lea Avenue and Temple Mills Lane, to a new location near the car park on the west side of Olympic Park.
Lawrence has engaged with a large number of different groups in the area to spread the word about what the Pro-Bike Service workshop offers. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4 talking about the project, and has recently been asked to deliver a keynote speech at a transport convention next year.