Recycling bikes and giving them a new lease of life

Turning unwanted bikes into objects of desire, De’ils on Wheels is a community bike workshop that promotes the joy of cycling.

Based in Glasgow, it offers safe, affordable bikes to encourage you do it.

Project manager Neil Lovelock explains how it is gaining momentum.

How did De’ils on Wheels get started?

We run several projects through the Dumbarton Road Corridor Environment Trust, delivering a range of environmental activities and services, and De’ils on Wheels is one of them. It’s a community bike workshop where we take in donations of unwanted bikes, refurbish and sell them. We also teach cycling skills, do bike services and repairs, and offer opportunities for training and volunteering. It has been running for about eight years in a couple of different formats. It was originally set up as a project to work with local young people, teaching them about bikes and cycling. The project wasn’t able to generate an income though, so it closed until we got funding that would enable us to do so. The bike workshop has now been accredited by Revolve, Scotland’s national re-use quality standard, which assures customers that what they are buying has been fully checked and is safe. We’ve got six regular volunteers, all of whom are cyclists with bike maintenance experience. We also offer a cycle outreach programme with local schools.

What impact has De’ils on Wheels had on the
local community?

The workshop opened three years ago in April and we have seen real growth in the number of donations. It took about a year to get our first hundred donations and the second year we got about 200. We’ve already hit 200 this year and we’ve still got a few months to go. Sales have increased as well. We’ve managed to get some of the volunteers trained as bike mechanics, so we can see the effect locally.

Where do the donations come from?

It’s a mix. We get donations from the public and in partnership with a couple of other bike recycling projects in the city we collect bikes from the council’s recycling centres. We much prefer getting bikes donated directly to us from the public because they tend to have been looked after a bit better. In the main, it tends to be complete bikes, but we will take parts and components, and assess them.

Has the growth in cycling as a sport helped?

There has been a whole host of things ranging from the success of the likes of Team Sky in the Tour de France, and the Olympics – although that is very high-end cycling, it fi lters down. In Glasgow we’ve seen the impact of the Commonwealth Games; in the last three or four years there’s been much greater investment in the infrastructure. We did a small survey about cycling and transport; a lot of adults can cycle, but choose not to and many haven’t cycled for years. It comes down to safety concerns and confidence, maybe they don’t have a suitable bike, and that has an impact on their kids too.

What has been the greatest benefit?

I think people becoming more aware of cycling and how easy it is to ride a bike. We don’t tend to get a lot of high-quality bikes donated, but that means we can sell the bikes at an affordable price: our children’s bikes average about £20 and adult bikes are around £35-£40. We get people in who haven’t ridden for ages, so just want to buy a bike to try it out, and we get a lot of repeat business from families in the area.

And where did that name come from?

Blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan was credited with inventing the first mechanical pedal-powered bicycle. In 1842 he rode the bike up from Dumfries to Glasgow. Unfortunately, he knocked someone down and was subsequently referred to as the Devil on Wheels!

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