Bike repair shop has the answer

March 9, 2021

You can’t get a greener, more sustainable scheme than the Bike Project, run by the bike repair guys at Mersey Street, Invercargill.

The team at the IDEA Services day base collect old bikes, fix them up and pass them on to people who need them. They recycle and reuse bikes that would otherwise go to the landfill, encouraging people to use pedal power rather than motor vehicles. They also hope to gain skills that might lead to future employment.

Service Manager Jo Fredericks-Rizzi says the Bike Project started in 2011 as a joint venture between IDEA Services, Bike Doctor Tony Tresidder, who operated a voluntary bike repair and hire service in town, and the Invercargill Environment Centre. The most recent donation was 17 bicycles to pupils at Fernworth Primary School, just before Christmas.

Since 2011, around 450 bikes have been restored and donated to school children, local charities and support services, community groups, church groups, Workbridge clients and refugee families.

“IDEA Services developed the project as an opportunity for the people we support to learn to repair and maintain bikes with a view to using these skills to earn a wage,” Jo says. “The project aims to build technical ability, teamwork skills and work confidence and to provide free recycled bikes to the local community.”

Before lockdown the team worked for two days a week on the bikes. It’s now operating one day a week, with up to six people working on the bikes. One of the team,Mark Cook says he enjoys taking the bikes apart and has become expert at stripping them down.

Tony says there are many tasks for people to get involved in. “They learn to use tools, strip bicycles, sand down bikes and paint them back up. We accept everything from wee bikes for kindy kids.”

If a donated bicycle is too far gone, they cannibalise it to repair other bikes. “We have got plenty of boxes of parts and tyres and tubes and reflectors. I have got too many parts,” he says.

Tony often puts on the finishing touches. “I have done it all my life. I have done bikes ever since I was a wee kid,” he says.

Tony has plans for even bigger and better things this year, starting with a new name – Ride Again Cycles – and the launch of a website. “It’s got to be done. Cycling is a big part of everything now – the way the world has gone.”

Jo says as more schools become involved in learn-to-ride-a-bike programmes, they will get in touch to see if they can help with providing a pool of bikes for the children to use at the schools.

“We have been approached by agencies such as WINZ, Red Cross, Workbridge, local Māori support service providers, Family Works, and Women’s Refuge on behalf of their clients, and also directly by some individuals who are experiencing periods of hardship and would benefit from a bike to get to work or a job interview.

Support worker Hayden Anderson-Brown says that after Fernworth Primary School made the local newspaper, four people got in touch offering bikes and another four asking for bikes.

Caption: Bike repair man Mark Cook has become expert at stripping down old bicycles so the team can get to work on them.