Leeds Bike Mill is gearing people up for cycling

A cycling cooperative is on a mission to get Leeds people on their bikes.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 5:00 pm
A busy volunteer session at Leeds Bike Mill's workshop in Mabgate Green.

Leeds Bike Mill (LBM) donates bikes to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

It also sells affordable, second-hand bikes to a wide range of people in a bid to offer a green and healthy mode of transport.

And the initiative also shows you how to fix your bike.

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Leeds Bike Mill runs a series of courses to help people get to grips with their bikes.

The not-for-profit organisation, based at Mabgate Green, runs a scheme called ‘Fix it to Ride’ where is gives cycles to refugees and asylum seekers.

Naomi Brown, a co-director and mechanic at LBM, said: “Asylum seekers, in particular, tend to be living on a budget of about £37 per week, which obviously doesn’t stretch very far.

“We get referrals from a range of organisations in Leeds who work with asylum seekers.”

The project works with the likes of The Red Cross, The Refugee Council, Leeds Refugee Forum and PAFRAS (Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers).

Naomi Brown, a co-director and mechanic at Leeds Bike Mill.

The scheme has been funded for the last 12 months by the Evan Cornish Foundation, which campaigns for the most marginalised and promotes human rights. The project has just got continuation funding from the Big Lottery.

It is backed by a team of volunteers who come together on Thursday evenings to sort out bikes for refugees and asylum seekers.

Naomi said the feedback they got from people they have helped was one of “gratitude”.

But this is just one of LBM’s projects. It also offers a variety of recycled bikes for sale to everyone. Its showroom opens up three times a week in its workshop, which is above the The Pedallers’ Arms on Mabgate Green.

A Dr Bike maintenance roadshow at Armley Industrial Museum.

The bike sale is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am until 6pm. It also stages one on the third Saturday of the month between 10am and 2pm, the next one is on Saturday, February 15.

Naomi said the advantages of having a reliable bike in the city were numerous.

She added: “Cycling doesn’t just have physical benefits, it has mental health benefits as well.

“Cycling is something that is suggested for people who might struggle with their mental health because there is a feeling of freedom when you ride.”

There is also the environmental impact to consider. People opting for a sustainable method of travel like cycling can help cut air pollution levels.

It is also attractive from a costs perspective, as it means you will be spending less on car costs like fuel and parking, or on bus or train fares.

But Naomi thinks more needs to be done on driver education to make Leeds more bike friendly.

She said: “I would say, realistically, it is not the most cycling friendly city - but it is improving.”

The cycling guru said that increasing numbers of cyclists are helping to get drivers used to the presence of bikes on the road. The building of separated cycle lanes, like the Leeds to Bradford cycle super highway has also helped. There are also good off road routes too, like the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towpath.

LBM has also previously run a project to improve relationships between drivers and cyclists in Leeds. The course gave professionals like lorry, taxi and bus drivers a flavour of what it feels like to ride a bike on streets of Leeds.

Naomi added: “More driver education is needed to make the roads safer for everyone in Leeds.”

FACT FILE:

Leeds Bike Mill was set up in 2014.

The cooperative is based at an upstairs workshop on Mabgate Green.

The scheme was established to fill a need for a bicycle recycling project in Leeds and for affordable second-hand bikes.

The co-operative is made up of three people: Naomi Brown, Ben Milner and Celia Ashman. They are all directors of the not-for-profit scheme and are also bike mechanics.

Among the many projects Leeds Bike Mill (LBM) runs is its advanced maintenance course, which is staged over a weekend.

The paid for course helps to fund LBM, but it does offer bursaries to make the course more accessible.

People just need to fill out a form on the LBM website to apply for a free or subsidised place.

LBM also runs its Dr Bike service where it takes its maintenance skills on the road.

It has staged them at community events, including at Armley Industrial Museum.

LBM also works closely with West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s ‘City Connect’ project, which encourages more people to make short journeys by bike or foot. The Fix it to Ride programme was also started with City Connect funding.

LBM is also staging an introductory course on bike maintenance on Saturday, March 7 at its base from noon until 4pm.

The group has recently been selected as one of the Co-op Local Community Fund’s projects. Co-op supermarket members and shoppers can support LBM via membership.coop.co.uk/causes/42254.

For more information about LBM email: [email protected] or see leedsbikemill.org.