Brixton bike charity inspires young people and improves diversity in cycling

A Brixton based charity is working with Lambeth Council to improve diversity in cycling and inspire the next generation of London cyclists.

upCYCLE provides free bikes, cycle training and bicycle maintenance workshops for young people from minority ethnic groups to get them off public transport and on bikes.

Phil Dobson, upCYCLE founder said: “The benefit of the bike itself is the freedom that it gives them to get out of their own area and discover different parts of London.

“A lot of kids growing up in estates don’t leave their area and they are just stuck in a bubble.”

Dobson set up the charity six months ago, and since then has raised over £8,000 in fundraising and donated more than 20 bikes to youth charities and young people.

The Black Lives Matter movement over the summer was one of the reasons Dobson set up upCYCLE.

Dobson said: “A lot of people were having conversations about it, which was great, but I wanted to do something tangible and actually make a difference.

“I am trying to tackle the lack of diversity in cycling. The London cycling scene is predominantly white males and I think that we need to target people whilst they are young and ignite a passion for cycling.”

He also wanted to get young people off public transport, as it was a dangerous place to pick up coronavirus which they could take back to their families.

upCYCLE hosted its first bike maintenance workshop in December, inspired by the youth charity Carney’s Community, which has its own bike workshop in Battersea.

“These kids get their bikes and if something goes wrong with it, they don’t have the money to get it fixed and they don’t have the knowledge to fix it themselves,” Dobson said.

upCYCLE also runs cycle training sessions and is working with the London Cycling Campaign to try and improve infrastructure to make it easier and safer to get around the capital by bike.

Lambeth Council has supported upCYCLE since its conception and this month it ran a campaign to remove abandoned bikes from streets and donate them for future workshops and bikes for young people.

Lambeth has helped fund workshops throughout the year and in October ran a similar campaign which saw upCYCLE receive between 15 and 20 bikes.

Dobson said: “I am really grateful to them for everything they have been doing helping out so far.”

Dobson is hoping to extend the reach of upCYCLE into Wandsworth and Southwark with plans eventually to reach all of London and other UK cities.

He said: “The idea is to carry on and do about six bikes a month. It is just me at the moment and a volunteer mechanic but obviously with COVID I haven’t been able to go into the workshop as much as I would like.”

The charity is currently hosting online sessions but Dobson is keen to get back into the workshop when restrictions lift as he has a number of charities lined up for projects.

If you would like to donate a bike or funds, visit their website.

And you can read more about the increasing diversity and inclusivity in London’s cycling scene here.

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