Oily handshakes: bicycle workshops, sustainable urban transport and the community economy. A lecture by Simon Batterbury of the University of Melbourne (Australia) and currently fellow researcher at the Brussels Centre for Urban Studies.
Bike workshops or "Ateliers Vélo" are examples of urban sustainability 'in action'. Not-for-profit in orientation, they rely on voluntary labour, and cheap or free premises, to provide an 'urban commons' where people source parts and learn to fix up a working bicycle. Piles of dead bikes and bits are salvaged and brought back to life in new forms.
Bicycle workshops have been around for over thirty years, sometimes as part of community ventures with a social or activist mission. Some are anti-capitalist; most try to contribute to sustainable transport and teach some do-it-yourself skills.
The bike workshop has largely escaped scrutiny, but Simon Batterbury argues it as an important feature of city life, especially as cyclist numbers are growing again in Europe and their cultural capital increases.
Based on fieldwork in Europe, the US and Australia, Batterbury discusses the origins and workings of workshops: who goes to them? What do they do? How are money and labour organised? And what does all of this mean for a fairer (two wheel) urban economy? For example, should the state leave them alone? While workshops usually reject profit motives, this is not always true and some do transition towards larger social enterprises, while retaining an enthusiasm for bikes and all that they stand for.