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Keeping the wheels spinning

Working with the charity Trax

Oxford is a city that loves cycling not only for convenience but also its economic aspect and it tops the charts with the number of active cyclists, in part due to it being the quickest way to get around.

At ODS we are fully supportive of initiatives that help ensure everyone has access to safe and sustainable transport that can also help reduce vehicle emissions and the impact on the local environment. We provide our staff with access to a workplace cycle scheme and many take advantage of it, as they are able to cycle to work due to them living locally to our depots.

Recently cycle 'Quickways' have been introduced in Oxford, which ODS have installed as part of the Oxford Local Cycle and Walking Plan, and changes to the Highway Code should support safer travel on two wheels.

As a consequence of such active cycling and a high population turnover in Oxford, every year hundreds of bikes are abandoned. That’s where we find a new purpose for them…

Circular repair, reuse, and revived keeping the wheels turning.

As part of our role for Oxford City Council, we actively look after the streets which includes collecting abandoned bikes. We are also called on to temporarily remove bike racks from key central locations to safely provide the infrastructure required for larger city events such as the annual St Giles Fair.

In 2022 ODS removed a total of 165 bikes and whilst we ultimately hope that they are reclaimed by their owners, generally, they are not. Any bikes removed by us are fully monitored and recorded through a robust and secure process. They are tagged and stored safely to allow time for any owners to reclaim them.

When a bike is not reclaimed, we donate to a local charity – TRAX – who will repair them. Last year 110 bikes of the 165 collected went to the charity, the remaining bikes are normally too run down to be used again, and these are used by local repair shops that will take the bikes for spare parts. These parts help them to rebuild other bikes and support local businesses to help other cyclists.

Abandoned bikes are often reported online via Fix My Street. When we receive a report, we visit the reported bike and if it meets the criteria to be classed as abandoned, we tag the bike. Tagged bikes are only removed if they have not been claimed after a minimum of seven days.

Bikes that we have to remove from the highway, are taken to a secure depot. They are then placed into a compound and kept for a minimum of 35 days. Bikes removed from racks for annual city events are stored for much longer- up to 60 days. Notices are placed on the racks for a minimum of two weeks prior to removal. If they are not claimed we aim to repurpose them to help the local community through TRAX.

TRAX is a local charity working with young people, through the work of their technicians these bikes are given a new lease of life, not only from ODS’s donations but from all donations across Oxfordshire. The charity was established in the early 90s to act as a safety net for young people struggling with recognised paths through education with resources centred around well-being. Providing a purpose for young people to help fulfil their potential.

TRAX offers courses for young people from ages 11 to 18, including the City and Guilds Entry Level 3 and Level 1 Pushbike Maintenance qualification. Through these qualifications, they develop and practice the skills required for employment and/or career progression in cycle maintenance. Over the last 12 months, the graduating group achieved 90% success in their chosen vocational qualification.

Steph Dass from TRAX said "If people don’t donate bikes, then we wouldn’t be able to run this project with Ready Set Go".

To date, TRAX has repaired and supplied 446 bikes to the Ready Set Go project. Ready set go is run by Oxford Hub, which supports people in Blackbird Leys to cycle by providing access to bikes through the ‘Ready Set Go’ refurbished bike library – people can borrow a bike until they grow out of it, then return and swap it for a bigger one.

They also provide cycling safety equipment, cycling tuition, signposting people to group rides, community cycling events, maintenance training, and safer cycling routes. Since 2020, they have successfully supported over 103 children and parents to access bikes.

Repurposing bikes that would have gone to waste, whilst ‘doing good’ along the way for the local community reinforces our commitment to our social value pillars, taking a valuable resource and adding extra value throughout its journey.