A man running a project from the back garden of his council house that refurbishes unwanted bikes so they can be given a new lease of life feared the operation would have to close after a neighbour complained – only to learn that following a visit from a housing inspector, Bristol City Council had decided to support the scheme.
A neighbour of Ian ‘Scotty’ Scott, aged 48, had lodged the complaint due to his use of the garden of his Lawrence Weston home, as well as some disused land behind it, to store bikes for his L-Dub Community Bike Project, which he set up six years ago.
Since then, it has refurbished hundreds of bikes, giving them away free to underprivileged children aged 2 to 5 years, while those aged 5-16 pay £30 and adults £50 for the bikes.
Earlier this month, the council served him with a notice of inspection following the complaint by the neighbour alleging that he was in breach of his tenancy agreement due to the number of bikes stored in his garden and the land behind it.
“When I received the letter I couldn’t believe it,” Mr Scott told Bristol Live. “Everybody around here knows what we do and we have managed to make a difference in so many people’s lives.
“The thought that somebody would report us using land that has laid untouched for decades to run something that is trying to make a positive impact in the community is shocking to say the least.”
But far from ordering him to close down the operation, the council’s visit resulted in him receiving its backing – including help in obtaining permission to construct a more permanent workshop which he has already applied for.
“We are working with organisers of the bike project to help it continue to operate with the necessary permissions required,” a Bristol City Council spokesman explained.
“It is currently running from the back garden of a council property and we are in discussion with the occupants to safeguard the future of this community scheme.”
“It’s ironic really, because in trying to get us shut down by complaining they have actually sped up our application by quite a few weeks,” said Mr Scott.
“Although we have been operating well for the past few years on our own, to have that backing would be a massive help and allow us to reach so many more young people who really need it.”
Mr Scott said that his decision to set up the scheme was partly based on his own experience as a child in the area.
“There is something so freeing about having a bike, especially as a kid on an estate who might not have much of a chance to get out or explore – it’s like a passport to all these new experiences,” he said.
“I find it really depressing to see so many kids sat on their iPads or game consoles, getting no exercise in body or mind, when there’s so much for them to do outside with a bike.
“I feel really lucky that I was given that opportunity as a child, and now it’s great to be able to pass that on to other kids in the area - it feels like paying it forward in some way. We receive a lot of pictures and videos from parents of their children just loving their bikes and that makes it all so worth it.”
Among the organisations that donate unwanted bikes to the project is Bristol Waste, which said that often bikes are left at its recycling centres that only need minor work to return them to top condition.
“It’s a no-brainer for us to provide these items to our partner organisations to be refurbished and redistributed, often at affordable prices and targeting to those who may not otherwise be able to afford a brand-new bike,” a spokesman said.
Besides attracting attention from the local media, the story is now getting interest from national outlets, with BBC’s The One Show due to pay a visit tomorrow according to a post on the project’s Facebook page.
Mr Scott is currently appealing for help from scaffolding firms that can donate manpower and materials over the autumn and winter to cover up the area where mechanics currently work, and can be reached on 07561 836923.
A well-wisher has also set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the scaffolding, saying:
This guy is doing a bike project for community's and has no shelter to work under. Due to the weather he is out in all weather's providing bikes for the community. We have asked for help from others but yet nothing he has provided bikes to many from the age of 1 up to adults. We are reaching out for you guys to help please. He has helped many others by giving bikes to the community whether it's to go to work or just a family bike ride. He also repairs them in all weathers so just a little helping hand to this project in providing shelter is all we ask.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.