Sunday, 16 January 2011

Host Profile: Suffolk ACRE

Community development agency Suffolk ACRE headquarters are at the social enterprise starter complex Brightspace on Hadliegh Road in Ipswich.

Chief executive Dr. Wil Gibson is a frequent cyclist and said on the suggestion of hosting a Bike Aid box: "it's a neat idea, an example of what we're all about, enabling communities to help each other."

Suffolk ACRE presently operates several community transport schemes and the Kickstart scheme helping people get to work by providing mopeds and training at affordable cost. 

The Bike Aid kit is available from the reception desk during office hours at

Suffolk ACRE
160 Hadleigh Road
Tel: 01473 345300

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The rationale for Bike Aid

The evidence of the benefit of Bike Aid comes from common sense and my experience of commuting by bicycle to a popular Suffolk arts venue where I worked for several years.  There I was frequently asked by the public, especially tourists who had hired bicycles for a day out, if someone could give them assistance with a puncture or air for their tires. This happens at other public venues and local cycle shops who I asked if they too get requests for assistance. Although infrequent, the impact and discouragement of a breakdown or puncture is disproportionally felt for a tourist or casual cyclist. Our Bike Aid survey results also indicate that the great majority of 'infrequent' cyclists don't carry tools and a puncture repair kit.

I also surveyed employee attitudes towards cycling for my MA dissertation in Management of Creative Enterprise at Norwich University College of the Arts in 2009.

I could not find any specific studies asking if breakdowns are a barrier to people cycling but the Institute of Advanced Motoring did commission a survey on motorists' attitudes to cycling which asked what could get them out of their cars which is available as a PDF download

Host Profile: New Cut Arts Centre

The New Cut Arts Centre is a remarkable place located in Halesworth, Suffolk. Housed in a former grain maltings, the 'Cut' offers a wide programme of theatre, live music, dance, gallery exhibitions and educational and health activities for the community.On weekends it is a lively social hub as adults and their children mingle or attend classes and performances or hang out in the cafe (with free wi-fi). Remarkably, it does this without any Arts Council funding. Lately the Cut has become the home of the enormously successful High Tide Festival of new theatre writing.

The Bike Aid kit is kept at the box office and is available when the Cut is open.

New Cut Arts
New Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 8BY
Box Office: 0845 6732123 ~ Admin Office: 01986 873285,

Friday, 14 January 2011

Legal disclaimers: can we crowd source this?

When officials were presented with the idea of Bike Aid, there was sometimes much teeth sucking and doubts expressed it could operate in our litigious society.

However, other legally trained minds advised (unofficially) that as we didn't charge for it and if hosts made it clear it was at the user's own risk, there shouldn't be any problems if everyone concerned used their common sense. Our best defence is that prosecutors and juries would think that acts of kindness should be encouraged in our society and not legislated into impossibility.

If any law practitioners are reading this, I'd welcome their comments on how to best protect both the host and Bike Aid from liability.

The labels on the first Bike Aid kits contain the following text:

This courtesy cycle repair kit contains: 1 pump with hose. 1 valve adaptor. 3 tyre levers. 1 puncture repair kit. 1 multi spanner.

This kit is hosted by: [insert host name here]

This kit has been sponsored by:
Suffolk County Council
Spring Design and Advertising
Halesworth in Transition Group

Please read these disclaimers before use:
This toolkit is provided ‘as is’ as a courtesy to cyclists in need of emergency repairs entirely at the host’s discretion and the user’s own risk. The use of common sense, principles of mutual assistance (the ethos of the Good Samaritan) and personal responsibility are required for its safe operation.

No warranty of any kind is expressed or implied. No liability is accepted by the host or sponsor for any kind of tort arising from use. Kits containing solvents (i.e. rubber cement) cannot be supplied to persons under 18 years of age without adult supervision.

Please check the contents of this kit and inform the host of any fault. Please be kind and ensure the kit is returned clean, complete and ready for the next user. Please compensate the host appropriately for any expendables consumed or supply their replacements. Gratuities and other forms of acknowledgement of the host are very welcome. If you found this kit useful, why not provide one at another location yourself? Thank you for ensuring the continued provision of Bike Aid.

For more information about Bike Aid, please contact nat [@]

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Bike Aid FAQ

Who is behind this scheme?

The concept of Bike Aid was created by Nat Bocking who was inspired by local 'honesty boxes' and 'geocaching' sites.

The scheme is supported locally by Halesworth in Transition, (HinT) a group of citizens in Suffolk who are concerned about life after the oil runs out.

The local county councillor provided £200 (enough for about 20 kits) and Sustrans donated 20 puncture repair kits. Spring Design and Advertising came up with a logo. Local people donated unwanted cycle tools during a collection day.

Who manages the scheme?

Everyone. The scheme is intended to be a simple action anyone can do.  If you can provide some basic tools, a pump and puncture repair kit for the benefit of passing cyclists somewhere; you’re part of the scheme and managing it. 

Participation will always be open and free but if someone else does try and run off with the idea to make money with it, we shall enforce any moral rights and copyrights as creator of the scheme, let alone hunt them down and ensure public shame rains on them forever.

Why do I have to register?

You don’t HAVE to but it would be helpful if you could display the uniform ‘bike aid’ logo and register the location of the kit so we can make it available on the web for the use of publishers of travel information and tourist guides.  If you register the location of a kit, we’ll send you an digital file of the Bike Aid logo to display as well as mention you on this blog.

Can I sell the kits?

There’s nothing stopping you but we hope people would repay you anyway on an ‘honesty box’ basis. If you are a retail establishment, such as a cafĂ© or village shop, you might want to think about stocking puncture repair kits for sale and providing some spanners and a pump on loan for any passing cyclists.

Sustrans sells puncture repair kits for £2.50 and they would be cheaper to you wholesale.

We are looking for a vendor to produce a Bike Aid kit in a package. Perhaps something with some nice foam cut to fit the tools etc. If someone else sold pre-packaged Bike Aid kits without our knowledge, we’d probably take a view on that but it depends on their use of our trademarks or copyrighted work.

Why do we need these? Don’t cyclists always carry tools?

Many do but according to our surveys over 90% often go out without tools.

The inspiration for this scheme was the number of requests for assistance from cyclists that Nat Bocking had when he worked at one of Suffolk's major tourist destinations. 

Following his hunch there was a need for this scheme, other tourist destinations in Suffolk reported that they also got frequent requests for assistance from cyclists. Nat also carried out research into why employees did not cycle to work for his MA dissertation. The inconvenience of being stranded by a breakdown or puncture was a significant reason that discouraged people.

Visitors to Suffolk often hire bikes or bring bikes they haven't ridden for some time. They set off unprepared for every eventuality.  Apart from punctures, brake cables can snap, gears can go awry. This can spoil their enjoyment of cycling. Premises that offered assistance to cyclists reported that people were always grateful for any help given and it was often repaid very generously, which compensated  for those who didn't.

This can only work if there are kits everywhere, how will you get to critical mass?

It would be nice if nobody was more than a mile from a kit one day. Until then, we will focus our efforts on providing kits in and around Halesworth, then Waveney and Suffolk Coastal districts, then the rest of Suffolk and so on. When people in other areas join in, we will encourage them to become a nucleus for local growth.