It’s been a time of change for cyclists in Lewisham recently. Discount Bikes on Lewisham Way has closed its doors for good and Rad Bikes is set to open in New Cross soon. Shops may be coming and going but one thing has remained, the hard work of Jane Davis, the Coordinator for Lewisham Cyclists.
The Lewisham Cyclists have been around for 30 years as a group of riders who cycle together in the local community. However, in the past decade their activity has increased with more regular rides open to regulars and newcomers.
Through government funding and donations, the Lewisham Cyclists are also able to offer a number of schemes that aim to help those in need of bike tools or education in maintaining a bike.
I spoke to Jane when she was working on a Dr Bike session recently. Dr Bike is designed to be an outreach to those looking to get basic repair on bicycles who may not have the means to do it themselves. The scheme uses both volunteers and paid mechanics and works out of different locations.
It’s just one of many schemes offered by the Lewisham Cyclists as Jane explained: “Three years ago we [Lewisham Cyclists] got a grant from Cycling Grants London which is part of TFL, this was to set up the maintenance project called Mend and Ride, a hands-on session which lets people use tools to fix their own bikes and also learn how to keep them on the road…
“Dr Bike is a session we run after being asked by Deptford Lounge where people can leave their bikes with us to get worked on.”
I asked Jane what sessions like Dr Bike are supposed to achieve: “Safety is the main aim, we do safety checks at short sessions like this and if a bike isn’t safe we try and make it rideable and if it’s impossible then we tell them what they need to do themselves”.
Research undertaken by the Croydon cyclist compared the prices of six of the biggest bike retailers and found the average price of a bike is around £779, a figure out of reach for many in the Lewisham. Many in the area have to make do with what they have at hand.
Jane explained: “A lot of the bikes that we get brought in might not even be rideable, we want to change this and get people riding but also to keep them riding… we want to show people that they can do it [repairs] themselves and if they don’t think they can afford it, they can. That’s why we are donation only, we don’t want to have to charge anyone for what we do.”
TFL reopened its applications for its Cycling Grants scheme last year to fund projects for the next three years. Grants worth £180,000 are available. Jane told me how money received from funding had helped them: “We are part volunteer part paid mechanics. Without paid mechanics we couldn’t host sessions like this as often as we do.”
I asked Jane what she is getting from the project and she explained how she “was a teacher in Lewisham for years and now I’ve taken some time to work on this because I have my pension so I don’t need to charge to do any of this. I was a primary school teacher and worked in youth justice and when I finished those I just carried on helping the community through the LCC.”