Sustainable living

Volunteers build bikes for essential workers and Sydney’s most vulnerable

The Bicycle Garden gets bikes to those who need them the most


With Sydneysiders taking to bike riding in ever-increasing numbers since the pandemic struck, simply getting hold of a bike has become a challenge.

And the situation’s likely to become more acute with commuters jumping on bikes and avoiding public transport as restrictions ease.

Volunteer bicycle co-op, The Bicycle Garden, has been working hard to supply bikes to those who need them most during this time.

These include essential health workers and some of Sydney’s most vulnerable populations.

We chatted with The Bicycle Garden to learn more.

What does The Bicycle Garden do in more 'normal' times?

We host weekly DIY repair sessions where the public can come to our workshop to maintain and repair their bicycle with the help of our volunteers. We operate on a pay-what-you-can basis because we don’t want finances to be a barrier to riding.

We have monthly hours just for women, transgender and non-binary folks called ChainLynx, as well as a program called Pedal Power that’s open to the public to join us in a monthly bike building session. Those repaired bikes, along with helmets, locks, lights are given to people in need including refugees and women escaping domestic violence.

Tell us a little about the people involved in the organisation

Most of us are local working professionals in a variety of fields – less at the moment, unfortunately. Some are students, some are working bike mechanics, some are all 3. Most importantly, we all have different skill sets when it comes to bike mechanics and running a small organisation. This is something we strive to emphasise – no level of knowledge is expected as we know everyone’s on a learning journey.

How has the Covid pandemic changed the focus of your work?

When the restrictions came in, we immediately decided to start offering bikes for free to essential workers and anyone in need with limited resources. That includes all the people who are not eligible to receive any support from the government, like some casual workers and students.

We were recently contacted about supplying bikes to a group of health care workers in the local health district. This is really exciting for us as we feel so strongly about wanting to support health care workers as much as possible right now.

What outcomes are you hoping to see?

We want to support our health care workers and all essential workers in feeling safer on their commute to work by riding a bike. It’s the perfect physical distancing mode of transport. We also want to help those who are being hit hard financially to offer a very low-cost mode of transportation and exercise at the same time.

Riding a used bike is probably about the very best thing we can do for our environment, and our community, right now. We’re all grateful that the increase in ridership has pushed the NSW Government to improve our bike infrastructure, so riding to work from wherever you live is a safe and realistic option.

If people are looking to donate a bike to the cause, are you looking for any styles of bike in particular?

Given our goals, we look for bikes that are more user-friendly and easy to ride. Less carbon-fibre racing bikes and more multi-geared mountain bikes, hybrid, city or cruiser style bikes. If anyone has a bike to donate please use our donation form.

Can the public help in any other ways?

People can donate bikes and bike parts to us, but we don’t have room for kids’ bikes. Stay aware and support public bike infrastructure projects. If you’re driving, please be respectful to all cyclists, including all the food delivery riders, who are working really hard right now. If you know an essential worker needing a bike, please refer them to us.

Any advice for the thousands of Sydney residents who are hopping on a bike for the first time often in decades?

Make sure your bike fits you properly. And don’t underestimate a comfortable seat – if you're comfortable you’ll be able to focus more and enjoy your ride. Pump up your tyres once a month to the recommended amount written on the side of your tyre – look for ‘psi’ after a number from 40 to 120.

Clean and oil your chain too. Simple maintenance will make your ride easier and keep your bike in better shape longer. And invest in a good lock, as we’re seeing an increase in bicycle theft at the moment.

Find out more about The Bicycle Garden.

Published 2 June 2020, updated 3 June 2020