Makery tested a handful of participatory and solidary bicycle repair workshops. These organizations are based on mutual aid and skill sharing in both dedicated and traveling spaces. Meet the bicycle as a vehicle of solidarity.
Ecology, circular economy, DIY : in the past few years, bicycles have become laboratories of solidarity in urban areas, while participative mechanics workshops initiate more and more people to the movement. Volunteer-based and generally nonprofit, this network of workshops is stable and growing exponentially. Around the corner or as part of a fablab, we tested two in the Paris region, OHCYCLO in Montreuil and Atelier Bastille, the Paris antenna of the Vélorution collective.
Friday 5:30 PM, participative mechanics workshop in Montreuil
OHCYCLO is located on a quiet street in Montreuil, near Robespierre subway station. Outside on the pavement lies a cemetery of bikes in all types of sizes and conditions. Inside, old posters on the wall and little flags hanging from the ceiling immediately give a friendly impression. This warm welcome is confirmed by Stéphan Buchet, manager of the premises. Around him, eight people are busy working on bikes propped up on workstands.
Among the tools we never knew existed: cable pliers, truing stand, striped keys, chain whips… Spare parts, mostly used but also new, are meticulously labeled and priced. But the real added value is human. Everyone comes with their own bike and their own problem, but often ends up spending more time on someone else’s project. In any case, the workshop is open 3 days a week for a member fee of 20 euros a year.
If you don’t come to the shop, the shop will come to you
Following an agreement with Montreuil’s public housing office, OHCYCLO regularly brings its workshop into local communities. In the outer zones of Paris, other organizations offer a similar type of off-site activity, such as Cyclofficines in Pantin, Evry and Paris’s 20th district. Another must-do among participative workshops: pre-dismantling, during which volunteers recycle and enhance donated bicycles, often as a result of agreements signed with local councils.
Sunday 2 PM, self-repair in Paris
Velorution! The neologism refers to a collective, made up of independent associations, that promotes cycling on a national scale. Its Paris antenna, Atelier Bastille, is located at 4 rue Jacques Cœur in the 4th district, occupying a venue loaned by the City of Paris. As Matthias Guillot, one of the organizers, collects the mandatory annual 10 euros from new members, the shop fills up. With wheels hanging in clusters and lockers nibbling the walls, the long railroad-style space is a bit intimidating.
Most of the parts are freely priced, with some exceptions, such as brake cables. Volunteers, some who have been coming for over three years, don’t hesitate to lend a helping hand. But it can be tiring at times. “Some will never make the effort to learn,” we hear at one end of the shop. But this is quickly overtaken by a good mood and generosity, all the way to the stomach, as the mechanic’s sandwich is on the house.
Atelier Bastille is open on Tuesdays and Sundays for self-repair. The Sunday alternative, Atelier Stendhal, attached to the artist collective at 5 rue Erard, in the 12th district, requires no member fee, which can be useful for an emergency fix. A mecca of militant solidarity, the Stendhal squat recycles bicycles to give to migrants in Calais.
In a similar fighting spirit, Atelier solidaire Saint-Ouen offers self-repair sessions “until the troops are exhausted” at Cara home for young workers, near Saint-Ouen City Hall. According to Xavier Remongin, one of the organizers, Atelier solidaire Saint-Ouen will move to a new space in September, in order to become an “inner-city fablab” where people can also learn about digital fabrication.
List of participative workshops throughout France : Heureux Cyclage