Ain’t no border high enough

Critical Mass to Calais : Bikes Beyond Borders!
August 29-31st, 2015

>>Got a bike and want to pass it on? This is an attempt to get bikes and other provisions to refugees in Calais.<<

If you have, or can source a bike to donate, then please, please join us this August bank holiday weekend on our little trip cycling across the channel: Critical Mass to Calais, taking bikes beyond borders!

We will release more details nearer the time, but you can get involved in any way shape or form (there are many, many ways) just scroll down and pick from the options below.


The vast majority of people living in the camps have left their home countries for reasons of war and persecution in search of safety and security. Now, having been forcibly evicted from autonomous camps in Calais to a new ‘designated area’, 7km from the town centre, there are in the region of 2000 people, including women and unaccompanied minors, living in conditions of poor sanitation with minimal access to support and services.

Most cyclists can relate to the sense of freedom, mobility and self sustainability afforded by the bicycle. For people living in the camps, bicycles are an invaluable asset, improving quality of life by increasing access to basic essentials like the local shop and support and advice services, currently over an hour’s walk away. Some organisations have already began taking bikes to the camps, but many more are needed.
Here is how to JOIN IN THE FUN:

1) THE BIG ONE – 2 Day Cycle from London to Calais leaving Saturday 29th August with overnight camp fun to break the journey – Location and route details TBA nearer the time.

2) 1 Day Cycle from London to Calais leaving Sunday 30th August – For the faster riders or those with time constraints.

3) 1 Day Cycle, starting at overnight camp (location TBA) to Calais – For those who want a shorter ride.

4) Just get to Calais! You may want to donate a bike and visit Calais with us, but perhaps don’t fancy the ride or don’t live in London or the UK…so just find the best way to meet – perhaps even starting a critical mass from your own city!

Don’t have a bike you are able to donate?

1) Come along for the ride! Donating is not mandatory at all, the more the merrier, so join in the fun at any of the stages listed above!

2) Talk to your pals! Do you know there are 7 times more unused bikes in garages and gardens in London than out on the roads, so speak to your friends or neighbours to get your hands on one!

3) Get a second hand bike from your local bike shop or one of our recommended providers – details to follow.

Don’t fancy the ride?

1) Get your bike to Calais in any way you can! We know that riding isn’t for everyone, the main objective is to get as many bikes to the camps as possible, so if you have another way of getting yours there, then find us at either Dover or Calais on the Sunday.

2) Join us as a support vehicle! You never know what might happen the road and we would love to be accompanied along the way! There will be mechanics in the group but parts and refreshments will need their own ride.

3) Donate any spare bicycles to the cause! There are many organisations who refurbish unused bicycles and donate them to asylum seekers and refugees, message us and we can connect you!

Episode Seven – Elly Blue

Woah! We’ve made it to the last in a series of independent mechanics interviews of Portland, Oregon. This one isn’t of a mechanic per se, but of a bicycle activist who does a lot for PDX in terms of cycling. From her website on feminist nonfiction about cycling:

I’ve been writing about bicycle transportation since 2006, and my work has appeared in Grist, Bitch, BikePortland, Momentum, Reclaim, and elsewhere. I co-founded PDX by Bike, a business that helps people find their way around Portland by bicycle, and a nonprofit business alliance called the Portland Society. My first book, Everyday Bicycling, came out in December, 2012. My next full-length book, Bikenomics: How Bicycling Will Save the Economy, [more here] comes out in February 2013. 

Read on to find out more about Elly Blue and her participation in, and thoughts around, Portland’s ever-growing cycle scene:

How did you get into bikes/cycling? Would this count as your Portland background, too?

I was lucky enough to be in Portland and on the alert for what I wanted to do with my life just as the bike scene was starting to blow up. I’d already been riding a bike for transportation, but my heart was in walking and I was increasingly obsessed with transit. Bikes, bike events, and learning about all things bike took over my life before I quite realized what was happening. It was heady to be in the midst of all the changes and creativity going on.

What I do now: I write quite a bit, mostly about bikes, and at the moment mostly for enviro weblog I also publish a feminist bike blog and zine, both called Taking the Lane which is a great creative outlet. I can sort of scrape by enough with writing to still have some energy to put into other projects, like my new business, PDX by Bike and the Portland Society.

What do you do that’s bike related (and/or activist)? Do you see much crossover in Portland between bikes and activism? Would you say you have a political outlook?

Being able to ride a bike has been transformative in my life and in my community. In my work as a writer, I take this as a baseline assumption and then try to push the boundaries of the discourse about transportation and community life as far as I can. I am lucky to work with some amazing editors and publications who hand me a megaphone to say that we should remove freeways from cities and that cars contribute to poverty and inequality. It’s amazing how many people feel free to make these ideas their own, once I’ve put them out there. You know what’s also amazing? The most controversial things I say are more along the lines of “sexism exists.”

So that’s half my working life, getting to write these out-there things that are actually pretty common sensical, particularly from an economic perspective. The other half is PDX by Bike, a business my friend Meghan Sinnott and I are launching to help people visiting Portland enjoy the city by bicycle, whatever that means to them. I don’t think of it as activism, but I do hope it helps more people get on bikes and love it.

Regarding what you do, could you speak more about the Portland Society?

This is one of my favorite projects right now. It’s a nonprofit business alliance for women who are into bicycling. We have two events a month, a morning meeting focused on professional development, and an evening happy hour focused on networking. We’re a year old, have over 40 members, have started a scholarship fund, and from what I can tell and what I’ve experienced myself it’s provided people with a lot of useful skills, ideas, and contacts, as well as a more nebulous but maybe even more important sense of empowerment. I get this high at the morning meetings when everyone goes around the room introducing themselves and talking about what they do. We’ve been surrounded by all these amazing women all along, but many of us tend to get drowned out in the male-dominated bike industry and business community.

Have you seen more involvement of women and acceptance by men in the bike world…more sectors than others (say bike rides vs bike shops)? Are there many ‘biketivists’ in Portland and is it male dominated? Has there been a strong feminist critique of the ‘scene’ made?

There are a lot of amazing, active women in all parts of Portland’s bike scene. In some sectors, like advocacy, gender doesn’t seem to be as big an issue as in others, like mountain biking. Bike shops seem to be starting to open up a little — there’s at least a dialogue about gender, even if some of the ways it’s approached are clumsy. The sports side of things is going to thaw for women a lot more slowly than the advocacy side. On a cynical day, I’d say the parts with the real money are the most closed.

photo credit to sara stout

How much bike-related stuff that you do is enmeshed with Portland’s bike infrastructure? 

The infrastructure makes a huge difference. It’s not everything, but when it feels like you have a real place on the road, even if it’s something as tenuous as a bike lane, it makes for a much better riding experience and encourages a lot more people to get out there. We’ve been lucky in Portland because people working for the city have put down a lot of paint letting us all know that the roads are for bikes, too. But it’s also not that much. We’ve spent, over twenty years, less on bike infrastructure than we’ve spent just on preliminary studies for a new freeway widening project that may never be built, or at least I hope it isn’t.

How do you get funding for your projects?

There always seems to be money for bike stuff — or at least, there’s always someone happy to donate beer to bike events, and that’s easily convertible into money. It doesn’t have to be alcohol. One group I used to be heavily involved with, Shift, consistently raises more money than it knows how to spend by screenprinting second-hand t-shirts for their events and selling them for $5 each. I love that because the screenprinting process brings a lot of volunteers together to learn a new skill and do something concrete — those are the best parties.

What are you trying to engender through your work? And is this mainly for women?

I want to empower people.

I also read an article partially written off of an interview someone made about you, called ‘Advocacy, Women and Cycling, and the Shortcomings of Portland.’ The article reminded me of a workshop done earlier this year on young women and cycling (which brought up ideas of femininity, fashion, body image). What are your thoughts on this?

Ha. That’s a really good question. I disagree with proponents of “cycle chic” who think that in order for women to want to bike we have to know that we can look hot while doing it. Unfortunately, there’s some truth in that, but bicycling can also give us an opportunity to buck the absurd double standard for the way women are supposed to present ourselves. If bicycling were to become truly mainstream, then the mainstream will have become a new and unrecognizable reality in which natural hair, lack of make up, the occasional grease stain, and even, oh horrors, sweat, were totally normal.

That workshop and others (like one about how we get funding) was part of a weekend gathering of diy and grassroots bike groups in the UK. Have you  heard of, or been to, similar gatherings in the US?

There’s a huge network of community bike projects similar to 56a in the U.S.. They have an active wiki, a national conference called Bike Bike, and smaller regional conferences. Many of them have a strong feminist component.

I would love to be more involved in this some day — it’s one of the most hopeful things going on out there.

Thanks Elly!

Elly can be found on twitter @ellyblue

Tony’s Theme

He’s got the oil on his chain
For a ride in the rain
No baloney
Ride around on my bicycle
Like a pony
I’m waving hi, hi, hi, hi, hi
Gi-gi-gi-gimme a scream
Gimme, gimme the theme
Of Tony

I am Tony
Super bicycle Tony
I’m racing
Spitfire turn and pop a wheelie, burn
Evil chasing
I’m waving bye, bye, bye, bye, bye
I got a card in my spokes
I’m practicing my jokes
I’m learning!

This is a song about a superhero named Tony
It’s called ‘Tony’s Theme’!

I can look at the sun
If you give me some bad sunglasses
I’m back on the road
I cut my grass like I’m told
After classes!

— Pixies


New DIY Space on the Block: Broken Spoke Coop

Yo – The Broken Spoke Bicycle Coop is opening in Oxford!

They already have an impressive schedule: open workshops, group sessions, women’s night, build a bike sessions, beginner -advanced and wheel build courses, etc.

But the BEST PART: for their opening they’re having an ALLEYCAT!

If you’ve never done an Oxford Alleycat before, here’s how it goes:
  1. Find a rockin’ costume (Back to School themed, of course)
  2. Show up at Tourist Info, Broad Street between 6-6:30 to collect your Alleycat clues and find a team
  3. At 6:30 sharp everyone opens their clues and sets off!
  4. Ride madly around Oxford completing tasks and answering questions
  5. First team to complete all 6 tasks and cross the finish line (Restore Cafe, Manzil Way, Cowley Road) wins a prize!
Join the Broken Spoke afterwards for a launch party including prizes, a raffle, a silent auction, drinks, and more at Restore Cafe, Manzil Way, Cowley!

Capturing Commuters//Bicycle Portraits

“The Bicycle Portraits project was initiated by Stan Engelbrecht (Cape Town, South Africa) and Nic Grobler (Johannesburg, South Africa) early in 2010. Whenever they can, together or separately, they’re on the lookout for fellow commuters, and people who use bicycles as part of their everyday work, to meet and photograph…” Read more about the project or follow their twitter.

Bicycle Portraits photo
One of the commuters taken by the Bicycle Project

Cycling in London

Hey there. I’m flagging up two relevant topics regarding cycling in London.They deal with the current hazards of cycling in this city, and recent measures (and consequently, debates) to make cycling safer and appealing to more Londoners.

1. One is (generally) regarding female cyclists and the recent bout of cycle deaths this spring, mostly by HGV’s (Heavy Goods Vehicles): “[London,] which has the unenviable position of being the epicentre of lorry-related cycling deaths in the UK. Last year, 10 out of 13 fatal cycling accidents in the capital were women, and eight of them were killed by HGVs, according to the cycling campaign group CTC.”

-That quote is from a Guardian article that isn’t great (Mainly because it stereotypes female behaviour. Gender and cycling have been discussed by many in the cycling scene, and I hope to provide more information on this soon), but has some useful links.

-There was a follow up article from July 2nd on the Guardian about women cycling. Interesting that the drivers who committed the killings were repeat traffic offenders.

-This article from Moving Target Zine is also quite good and discusses the same issues.

2. The new ‘cycle superhighways’ have been lauded by the Mayor, Boris Johnson as something that “will provide cyclists with safe, direct, continuous, well marked and easily navigable routes along recognised commuter corridors.” This was written in a new policy document, the first stage of a £116m scheme to promote cycling in the city.

-The above quote was from this Guardian article, but quite a lot of reluctance towards the superhighways being anything major are noted; including in this London Cyclist blog article(s) on the superhighways.

-And here’s an interview with Mayor Boris Johnson on the Cycle Superhighways from London Cyclist. An excerpt: “Everyone seemed rather wooed by the speeches and was happy to walk away thinking how good us cyclists have it. This is highly arguable but you can’t help but agree that the visible nature of the superhighways is a positive thing.”

-An article on cycling lanes in NYC, written by the New York Times.

-And here’s a video that provides a “short insight”: