Community bike shop transforming lives in Westminster

  • Community bike shop, Westminster Wheels trained 30 unemployed residents to become bike mechanics
  • Over 80 bikes were donated to local community residents
  • 9 tons of bicycles were saved from the waste stream

A community bike shop, set up in partnership by Westminster City Council, Groundwork London and Cycle Confident, provides opportunities for those most in need in Westminster.

The store called ‘Westminster Wheels’ is located just off Edgware Road, one of the areas with the highest unemployment and health inequality in Westminster, and offers unemployed residents the opportunity to train as bicycle mechanics and get paid in London. living wage while they learn.

Throughout the six-month program, trainees work alongside experienced bike mechanics refurbishing old bikes – 80% of which are sold at affordable prices to generate revenue for the store, and 20% are donated to the local community .

Since the store opened in March 2021, 30 Westminster residents have completed their six-month training and most have found other employment, many in the cycling industry.

Chris Whiteley, who successfully completed his paid internship at Westminster Wheels and is now a full-time bike mechanic, said:

I first moved to London last year. I was homeless before coming here, so I moved in with my sister. I found a poster for Westminster Wheels when I was walking around one day and thought, I love bikes and would like to learn how to fix them. Westminster Wheels has completely changed my life. I went from having no idea or what to do with my life to finding a career that I could happily spend the rest of my life doing.

The Westminster Wheels store also helps make cycling more attractive, affordable and accessible to people in the community who are least likely to cycle.

A recent report produced by Arup and cycling charity Sustrans pointed out that 74% of people from minority ethnic groups living in cities and towns do not currently cycle and that the high cost of buying a bike adapted has prevented many people from cycling. The TfL analysis also shows that only 27% of cyclists are women.

So far Westminster Wheels has donated over 80 bikes and these have been targeted to areas of Westminster with the highest rates of health deprivation and inequality.

Over the past year, bikes have been provided to community organizations including Marylebone Bangladesh Society, Paddington Development Trust, women’s groups and through the council’s children’s services.

To promote cycling safety, all beneficiaries are made aware of cycling training and the support and advice offered from the shop on Church Street.

Tell It Parent’s Network said:

Many thanks to Westminster Wheels for the women’s bikes donated to us.

Westminster Wheels recognizes that maintaining a bicycle can be costly and a barrier to bicycle use. That’s why this year it will extend its reach by donating bike maintenance vouchers to low-income families in Westminster with the aim of providing 450 vouchers over the next six months.

Linking to Westminster City Council’s wider climate action plan, including its ambition to become a carbon neutral council by 2030 and a city by 2040, the scheme also has a strong focus on sustainability.

In its first year, 9 tons of disused bikes that would otherwise have been thrown away were refurbished. Local people are encouraged and allowed to choose active transportation over the car.

The scope of the project has been made possible through the sponsorship of Westminster businesses including Capita, Ecoworld, Grosvenor, The Howard of Walden Estate, RMG, Westminster Community Homes, Ecoworld, HA Marks, Wates and Vital Energy.

Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development at Westminster City Council, said:

Westminster Wheels has helped people facing significant barriers to employment, such as homelessness, learn useful new skills. More than 60% of trainees are now in full-time employment. If you are a keen cyclist or new to two wheels, please visit the Westminster Wheels shop on Church Street to meet the trainees and get expert advice on affordable bikes and maintenance.

Find out more about Westminster Wheels, including touring the shop, applying to become a trainee and become a sponsor