SWL’s Unsung Hero: Clapham resident helps hundreds of youngsters with community bike project


Michael ‘Smikie’ Small leads the project.


By Chidi Ogundu

Thanks to one cycle enthusiast, the residents of Clapham Park can get their own bike for free.

For the past six years, the estate has benefited from Clapham Park Bike Project, run by local resident Michael ‘Smikie’ Small.

Smikie 44, was recruited by the Clapham Park Club to help set up the ‘Earn a bike scheme,’ where young people, aged between eight to 18, can learn how to build a bike from scratch and how to ride it safely on the road.

They are also given a helmet, lights and a bike lock for free. The bike project get most of their bikes from the police, which were either stolen or abandoned.

Being an asthmatic, Smikie believes that pedal power is the best ways to keep active.

“Cycling keeps you healthy, keeps you fit, keeps your lungs working and you don’t have to use the inhaler as much,” he said.

“Also it’s free and you don’t have to worry about petrol.”

However, due to lack of funds, the Clapham Bike Club has become a charity and is now only open on Saturday mornings. “We used to have two full time workers. At the moment there is only me,” Smikie says.

“It can be sustainable and work with only one member of staff. But it’s coming to a point where if the funding doesn’t come the project may have to close.”

Despite only being open once a week, the young people of Clapham still flock to the bike shop. Some come from as far as Balham and Croydon, thanks to word of mouth. 

The bike project has become a huge benefit to the Clapham Park estate. Bike crime in the area has stopped and the young people use it as a social hub, where they can socialise while fixing their bikes, without the need to watch TV, play video games or use social media.

Living on the estate for 20 years, Smikie has become a mentor to Clapham Park’s youth, most of whom use the bike project. He has witnessed them grow up from babies to young adults.

“A lot of young people will say to each other ‘meet me at the bike project,’ and then sometimes it leads from the bike project to football or the cinema,” said Smikie.

A former bike project volunteer is currently working at Halfords, while others are hoping to start their own bike project.

The Clapham Park Bike Club has the ability leave a lasting legacy on the young people of Clapham. However more funding is needed to keep the cycle of life going.

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