Workshop breaking the cycle of despair

Andrew Smith MP watches Elle Smith install a bicycle headset Picture: OX65495 Damian Halliwell

Andrew Smith MP watches Elle Smith install a bicycle headset Picture: OX65495 Damian Halliwell Buy this photo

First published in News

A BIKE maintenance workshop for vulnerable adults has been praised by Oxford East MP Andrew Smith as it enters its second year.

The Broken Spoke Bike Co-op in Pembroke Street works with people who are out of work, homeless or vulnerably housed to help them learn new skills and improve their chances in life.

Working with the Crisis Skylight centre, the Co-op runs three 12-week courses each year to teach basic and advanced bike maintenance.

Participants initially learn the basics in bike care and how to look after a bicycle.

Later on in the course they are each given an abandoned bike which they then strip down, repair and rebuild.

Cassiope Sydoriak, co-founder of the co-op, said: “Initially it’s step-by-step learning on how to figure out problems.

“Then, using bikes we are given from the city council, they come to our workshop, strip it down and then build it back up again.”

Ms Sydoriak, 26, explained the benefits of the class: “It means that they get a bike at the end of it.

“If you’ve repaired something and really cared for it, it gives you a sense of ownership.

“You’re far less likely to leave something lying around if you put 12 weeks of work into it.”

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Kate Cocker, director of Crisis Skylight Oxford, which operates from the Old Fire Station on George Street, added: “When you’re homeless you often feel unskilled and lose your confidence.

“This is a great team activity that gently gets people back into the habit of committing to something and learning a really valuable, vocational skill.”

Elle Smith, co-founder and operations director of Broken Spoke, said: “I feel like this is one of the most important things that Broken Spoke does.

Cycling can massively benefit your physical and mental well being and gaining confidence in mechanical skills can improve your ability to access work.”

Mr Smith said: “This is a win-win initiative. It’s great that it is developing the skills of those taking part in its maintenance programme, including homeless people, as well as benefitting the environment by putting abandoned bikes to good use and promoting cycling.”

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