Bike workshops in France and Belgium

Bike workshops in France and Belgium

Stevie.T - 2011

I have just spent three weeks going through France and checking out different bike workshops and how they run. Most French bike workshop seem to have paid staff along side their volunteers through different sources of municipal and state funding, they have a strong emphasis on membership in order to sustain their operations and fund their staff/activities.

In Belgium, this level of professionalisation of community bike workshops has gone even further. Most workshops are focused on being social enterprises, empowering people to join the workforce and being paid to run projects for the long-term unemployed. They also have a strong focus on promoting and creating better bike infrastructure, they run bike workshops in the main stations in the country where they repair bikes for commuters, run a bike parking and bike rental scheme (in the 4 main stations in Brussels and elsewhere).

Here is an overview of those I’ve seen:


Toulouse - La Velorution Universelle (est 1994)

runs out of squatted warehouse about 500 sq m (now has an agreement with the city of Toulouse over the space).

This project also has the cookie character where it sets bikes aside for sale to fund the project. Some members of the group have set aside a bunch of bikes for sale, which they fix and sell to fund the project.On occassion, some participants seem to actively discuade prospective participants from repair a bike by showing them an already made bike, actively discouraging people from being hands on and learning bike mechanics.

Other volunteers disagree with this approach and really want to encourage people to do things as we do at Ceres, guiding people through the process of repair one’s own bike. The group is currently facing significant tension between those who want to focus on recycling (even if that means selling already fixed bikes) and those focused on teaching people to repair things for themselves.

 Grenoble - Le petit velo dans la tete (est. 1994)

Best run and best organised workshop I’ve seen to date. Doesn’t have the range of tools we have but has a good strong community of both volunteers and staff. The workshop has six staff in two locations and works beautifully.

 Campus - opens 4 days a week 11h00-19h00

City - opens 3 days 16h00-20h00

Workshop is open to participants outside these hours, I went there on a saturday and people had spontaneously opened the workshop to people and started running the show.

 The workshop has one afternoon a week dedicated to stripping bikes.

 Lyon - Le recycleur

Bike workshop that runs out of a shop front in Lyon. It is run predominantly by two staff members who help people fix bikes in the workshop, along with a few volunteers. The workshop is of very high standard is not really a cooperative venture but a job for the two coordinators.



started in 1999 as a militant bicycle activist organisation which ran bike workshops.

 In 2007, the organisation became more professionalised and started running fietspunts/point velo bike workshops in stations. The project changed dramatically due to funding for the development of social enterprises which worked to skill up bike mechanics. The project received seed funding to do this and was expected to become self-sustaining which they now are.

 The project runs 5 workshops and has 30 staff including graduates from their social enterprise projects which were trained and now work as bike mechanics at the stations.

 They run bike rental schemes (Blue bikes) for commuters who just want a bike for the day (it is cheaper than the Bike share program with which you can only have a bike for half an hour free then pay through the roof thereafter).

 There next venture is to provide secure bike parking at stations.

No one fixes their own bikes in these projects. Bikes are fixed by staff.

L’heureux cyclage - Network of bike workshops

Their is a network of bike workshops in France and Belgium (seperate organisations which collaborate when they can). The french network has 35 member workshops and the Belgian one has 18.

 â—      Network has a reciprocal membership for visiting member of one workshop travelling to others. They have a map with all the workshops so that tourers can go and find places to fix their bikes throughout France.

●      Network provides help to new workshops: giving them parts, advice and expertise.

●      Networks with hard rubbish, recyclers and schools

●      act as a lobby for the bike workshops

●      Have developed an online how to manual for bike workshops (both how to run a bike workshop and a bike mechanics manual).

●      developed software to run workshops (finances/membership, etc)

●      published a postcard distributed to all workshop, “don’t throw away your bikes, bring them to us”

●      run workshops on how to run workshops

●      Do group orders and run tool making sessions

●      coordinate a Fetes des ateliers where each workshop does its own bicycle celebration day.