A Dublin bike shop owner who has been refurbishing bicycles for Ukrainian refugees for the last month has appealed to experienced bike mechanics to assist with servicing and repairs.
Paul McQuaid began seeking donations in March of adult and children’s bikes to pass on to newly-arrived Ukrainians fleeing war in the their country.
So far some 500 bikes have been donated at his shop, River Cycles, beside the James Joyce bridge at Usher’s Island, and he has repaired just over 250 which have been distributed nationwide. However, he said more than 1,000 Ukrainians have sought bikes, with requests coming from as far as Tipperary, Cork, Galway and Clare.
“We’ve been at it seven days a week, non-stop for the last month, getting bikes in – we do have an army of volunteers collecting them from people who can’t bring them in themselves – servicing them and getting them back out,” he said.
“But I need help at this stage. This morning between 9.30am and 10.30am I got in 16 bikes, each require at least half an hour’s work, that’s eight hours just there. I could really do with a couple of good-quality mechanics, even to just give a few hours a week to help out, that would be more than good enough.”
Many requests for bikes have come from people resettled in rural areas who are seeking bicycles to reach work or bring children to school. Others just want their children to have bikes so they can play with other local children.
“We have 40 bikes heading down to Hookless in Wexford as we speak,” he said. “We get a lot of emails from mothers who might have kids in a hotel that’s 5km from the school. We get emails back as well, telling you how happy a bike has made a kid.”
McQuaid said there remains a huge need for donations of women’s and children’s bikes, but he also made a special appeal for an adult tricycle for an older Ukrainian woman: “If there was one not needed any more in someone’s garage somewhere, that would be amazing to have.”
Many who have received bicycles have also asked how they can return them, if and when they are no longer needed, he said.
“That’s really amazing. It means a lot that they’re not seeing them as a throwaway item.”
This has prompted McQuaid to consider if the initiative could be developed into a more formal long-term scheme.
“What I’m hoping now is that it could be turned into a social enterprise, where bikes that come back in could be available in the future to other refugees, not just Ukrainians, but I think it needs to be formalised in some way to make it a more long-term thing.”
Seeing the effect receiving a bicycle has had for people has been “really profound” he said.
“Everybody talks about the humble bicycle, but humble it ain’t – it really can have a profound effect on people’s lives,” he said. “Obviously food and shelter are front and centre, but a bicycle for someone who is displaced and needs to get around should be part of the response.”
Mechanics, as well as those donating a bike or locks and other accessories, and Ukrainians in need of bikes can email firstname.lastname@example.org or by WhatsApp to 086-2656258.