The easiest first step is to set up a ‘Dr Bike’ scheme. ‘Dr Bike’ schemes are very popular and involve a cycle mechanic checking road worthiness of cycles and doing minor repairs. They can also provide advice if major repairs are needed. You could see if a local cycle shop or volunteers with mechanical skills could run a Dr Bike. Including Dr Bike at a local event or running it at different local workplaces makes it easy to attract people without needing to advertise. Spring and early summer are the best times when New Year’s resolutions are still fresh or the sun is starting to come out to encourage people to bring bicycle that have been lying dormant in a shed for years out of hibernation.
For something more long-term you could run monthly Dr Bike stalls on key cycling routes at peak hours during the lighter months. Providing use of a track pump with a pressure gauge and some chain lube at these is a really good idea for quick improvements to squeaky chains and half-flat tyres.
Maintenance training classes are often offered by those who provide cycle training, in particular community cycle projects, so these are the best places to look for instructors. A couple of hour sessions are usually enough to teach people about the basics of cycles and give them confidence to do day-to-day repairs. A charge of about £10 per session can be enough to cover costs while ensure that people who book actually turn up.
Think about how you are going to reach groups of people that are not necessarily draw to cycling or cycle maintenance and in what types of environments they would feel comfortable in. Some classes might be provided for mums and children in school and linked to bikeability provision. Or alternatively, it might be worth thinking about offering classes for women taught be women.
Another option is to train people in a local community to provide cycle maintenance , which will need funding for a budget: see the case study for more information. Recognised standards include City & Guilds, Cytech and a National Vocational Qualification for cycle maintenance. A more self-sufficient option like this is particularly good for rural areas. An in-between option is to have a drop-in cycle workshop, where people can get hands-on help and the use of tools to repair their cycles. See if you can encourage people to bring any spare parts for cycles (or even disused cycles) that they no longer need. Sharing tools could be encouraged too, but for obvious reasons people won’t always want to do this.
For long term provision it will be necessary to buy or borrow tools, find somewhere with enough space to hold classes or workshops and most importantly find people with the relevant skills. It might be worth employing mechanics from a local bicycle shop and searching for amateurs with appropriate level of skills.
Some cycle shops in rural areas offer call-out services and there are also mobile cycle based repair services in cities like London. You could encourage existing cycle shops to offer such services in your area, particularly if you could show that there was demand in your local area. For an example, see Village Cycles below.
Public transport operators could be encouraged to follow ScotRail’s example and provide free break-down assistance for anyone cycling that has a valid rail ticket for that day. This is provided through the Environmental Transport Association, which for a small sum per year offers an emergency breakdown service for cyclists.
If running your own Dr Bike or maintenance classes, it’s important to ensure that people sign a disclaimer exempting you from liability in the unlikely event they make their cycle worse rather than better. Where professional mechanics are involved, they will normally have their own insurance.
www.bicycology.org.uk/guide_pages.htm - Bicycology guides to provide basic information in an attractive format about cycle maintenance and other issues
www.cityandguilds.com/39272.html - Cycle repair and maintenance qualification, costs about £1,000
www.stabikes.org.uk - Cycle promotion through training and maintenance that started at a primary school
www.eta.co.uk/breakdown/cycle_rescue - Environmental Transport Association cycle rescue service
village-cycles.co.uk - Example of a mobile repair service iin Lincolnshire