Next to Clonakilty’s Spiller’s Lane, in the ‘Christmas Tree yard’, you will find a hive of activity. In recent weeks a dedicated team of volunteers has launched West Cork’s first community bicycle workshop.
The space was launched on June 6 by then-mayor Gretta O’Donovan at an event attended by a large cross-section of the local community (all on their bikes) including Gardai, An Post representatives, councillors and local business owners. The ethos of the Bike Circus is to create a community-centred space with a focus on education and inclusivity; it is modelled on some of the many community bike workshops that the founders have visited internationally, including ‘B!ke’ in Canada and ‘La Cicleteria’ in Spain, and will rely on membership, rather than retail, to keep the doors open.
The Bike Circus is also the hub for the voluntary maintenance and repair of the town’s fleet of 60 Community Clona Dairy White Bikes, which are available for rent at most hotels in the area. Head Yard Mechanic Jack Kelleher had been maintaining these out of O’Donovans Hotel up to this point but is now delighted to have a dedicated work space.
“We hope to be a space in town that complements existing bike repair shops,” explains co-founder Allison Roberts. “We work on the basis of membership – people who want to avail of the tools and guidance of our mechanics to fix their own bikes can become members by either volunteering once a month or by contributing €10/€20 a year.
“We will not sell parts or bikes and you can’t leave a bike with us to be fixed, that is the speciality of retail repair shops like the fantastic MTM Cycles on Ashe Street.
“We will also use our membership list to promote workshops and regular group cycles, slow-fun-cycles that are accessible to a wide variety of ages and abilities, as well as a basis for advocacy work, including championing coastal signposted cycle routes and better cycle infrastructure in the town centre.
“The doors of the Bike Circus have been open for only two weeks and we already have over 45 members. We are seeing that there is a real desire to make Clonakilty a more cycle-friendly town; there would undoubtedly be a great increase in cycling, and decrease in traffic congestion, if the infrastructure in our town supported this.”
The Bike Circus is now calling out for applicants for a free bicycle-mechanic apprenticeship course. The course will be taught by Head Yard Mechanic Jack Kelleher and will run for 25 hours a week, over four weeks, starting on July 15. There are four positions available and those interested are invited to call into the yard to speak to a volunteer.
The Bike Circus is also launching an open ‘VolksBike’ contest with a prize of €500 for whomever can design the best ‘people’s bicycle’. More details on that and the Bike Circus are available online via www.clonakiltybicyclefestival.org/bikecircus
The Bike Circus would like to express a special thank you to Clonakilty Blackpudding, Masterkabin and O’Donovans Hotel for all their support in making this space come to life.