Re-using bikes: in Croydon, recycling means exactly what it says


By - Monday 18th September, 2017

How one man and sixty bikes stayed the course and avoided the scrapheap


Photo public domain.

Just a little story to share with you.

One of the original projects on the Croydon ReUse site was a social enterprise that would make use of unwanted bikes. These would either be donated machines from the public or cycle shops where they had done a trade-in. Or, believe it or not, where the shop had lost the pre-assembly parts and it’s too much hassle to re-order them and the machine would go to the back of the storage yard until, one day, they have a clear out and the machine, now covered in dust, is thrown out. It was to be a youth offenders type project with the repaired or re-conditioned machines put on sale at very affordable prices.

For reasons that I never truly found out, this project never happened but the idea behind it and the environmental-ness of it was logged in my mind for future reference. Also, unbeknown to me, the recycle leader had been collecting bikes over the months and had them stashed at different locations around town and in conversation with various people about the re-use project I built up a picture of where these bikes were being stowed. Hmmmm. An opportunity to make the bike recycling idea happen became more to the forefront of my mind and I followed up one of the leads about a quantity of machines stowed in a shopping centre unit. Unfortunately, they had already been dealt with and that door closed.

Then one-day a round-robin email came in about a quantity of the bikes being stowed and that if they were not removed by such and such would be taken to Factory Lane and dumped. Bingo! The door had opened a little bit. So, on enquiring and going to see the bikes I was then faced with the issue of removing some 60 bikes and storing them until a plan could be hatched. Now, Mrs Green Croydon is very patient with my projects (and vice versa) but even she would not be impressed if she came home to find bikes stashed all over the house. Therefore, storage was a big issue. I pulled in a few favours and a van was loaned, then a container space was made available, and with the help of one of our brilliant community volunteers we moved around sixty machines to the container, closed the door, locked it and I went away and tried to forget about the problem I had just made for myself. This was December 2016 and I said that the container would be freed up by March 2017. How I figured that out was, at this stage, sheer bluff, but it got me the breathing space at least.

I felt that I’d just had my tyres inflated when I got the news

Many conversations later and one of them came to fruition: the Wandle Trust and their Get Active project were looking to buy bikes. They liked the idea that these bikes had been prevented from going to the dump, and agreed to take a quantity once a bike engineer had checked over the machines and selected those best-suited to their project. This happened and around a dozen machines were taken, the funds to buy bikes were used to repair them and make them ready for use and are in use for that project – now for the rest. The Wandle Trust then agreed to put in a funding bid to finance a project to restore the other machines by young people over several workshops at the ReUse site with the intention that for attending they would then keep the bike they had worked on. Alas, the bid was declined and I was back to square one. A project with young Albanians doing the workshops also came to nothing when communications dried up.

So the days and weeks passed, the bluffed March deadline came and went, and then a chance conversation with a leader of the Tollers Estate Residents group led to the answer: they’d take the whole lot for their residents to have a project to do. Then, an even greater piece of luck: Ross Cycles agreed to support them in the project with parts, repairs and advice as they liked the idea so much. I felt that I’d just had my tyres inflated when I got that news.

So it just goes to show that with a bit of persistence and effort, good community stuff can happen.

On to the next project.

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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  • blath8@googlemail.com

    You always do ‘good community stuff’ …… Well done and keep going – thanks :-)

    • Andrew Dickinson

      Thanks Grace. You were an early inspiration. Pre-household recycling I seem to remember.

  • Helen Toomey

    It would be great to know who to GIVE serviceable bike parts to, I hear about East London projects, but that’s too far to schlep to, and bloggers only bleat on about bike deaths, never how to have a critical mass of riders.

    • Andrew Dickinson

      Hi Helen. Feel free to pass them on to me and I’ll see that they go to a good home.

      • Helen Toomey

        Sorry for delay, Andrew, been off line, but if you have a “depot,” I have things like a few bike racks, ok 24 inch and 26 inch wheels+tyres, reflectors etc. to get rid of/drop round, maybe could part with a bike or two. I happen to know that Wheels for Wellbeing are just binning bikes/stuff and have no mechanics recruited, tragic! The Nextdoor website seems to have local freeloaders wanting bikes for nought! I regret I did not hear before about your work.

        • Andrew Dickinson

          Sure. we have a depot at Reeves Corner. Friday pm is the best time to drop stuff in.

          • Helen Toomey

            Andrew, it won’t be tomorrow, but Fri 13th onwards I’ll drop off wheels/tyres etc.

          • Andrew Dickinson

            ok. thanks very much. any rough idea of time?

  • Helen Toomey

    Andrew, Please tell me a time to be at R Corner on Fri 13th, but not via this awful system, no wonder it has a Latin name! Carrier pigeons or tortoises would be quicker, and you didn’t get my email last week on your Green Croydon website. I have just got a failure notice contacting you via your Council email. This website is an utter joke to communicate by, Grace Onions has my email addresses, so can we communicate that way?