History of the BikeShed
The Bikeshed is a resource centre, not a charity. The aim is to provide bikes affordable by people without much money, not to give bikes away. The team strives to help people do things for themselves, not to do things for them. A central idea is to work with people, not for them. This is part of maintaining local culture. The Bikeshed also sustains local traditions of bicycle recycling and framebuilding and provides a place for older cyclists to come and tell their stories.
Historically, the Bicycle Recycle Project was set up with a donated bikes that were surplus to the needs of a course Nicholas Elliot organised for adolescents at risk when he was Bicycle Coordinator for the Cities of Brunswick, Coburg and Northcote. The bikes were housed at first in a kindergarten in Northcote and the project got underway with a team from Northcote and Brunswick BUGs. Some time later, Nicholas negotiated some space in the “Women’s Garage” at CERES. The very small space available meant that all work had to be done outside and was critically weather-dependent.
Additionally, large numbers of bikes were hung from the rafters of a now-demolished shed that stood in the huge Ceres recycling yard a little east of the present Indonesian Village. It was pretty cumbersome choosing a bike from that shed, getting it down and taking it across to the Women’s Garage.
The part we had of that garage is now the northern half of the Worm Farm Workshop. It was small-enough with bikes in it but became pretty-much unusable once it had the materials in it for building the present Bikeshed.
Up to this time the team largely recycled bikes for sale and there was a some capacity for members of the three BUGs to work on their own bikes.
The Current Shed
When an area became available on the CERES site, the team embarked on the design and then the roughly year-long process of building the present Bikeshed. We did very little bicycle recycling during that year.
There were many delays. Construction of the frame of the shed was delayed by the loss of the steel destined for use in the roof trusses. There were no funds for replacing the steel and the trusses had to be redesigned around available timber.
Apart from the floor slab and the roof cladding, most of the materials used were secondhand. Much came from the CERES recycling yard which was much larger then than now.
The planning approval for the Bikeshed was delayed for some months by Moreland Council. Until that time, and excepting the cafe, buildings on the CERES site were built without approval by Council. We began on the same basis but ran foul of a newly-vigilant planning officer who chose to make an example of us. As we had already poured the foundation slab, there were some issues but we had made many photos of the preparation, pouring and finishing of the slab and were allowed this as sufficient evidence that it had been done properly.
In that the slab is still quite sound more than ten years later, despite the unstable landfill beneath it, the job does seem to have been done well. Many thanks to all involved but particularly Marino, a retired concreter who lives adjacent to Ceres and who volunteered his help for the laying and finishing of the slab.
Erecting the frame took some time. We had a volunteer team able to work only one or two days per week. Working outside, we were dependent on reasonable weather. We could not erect walls or apply cladding when the wind was high, and rain made many tasks too dangerous. Then we required specific volunteers for particular tasks, and they were not necessarily available right when we needed them.
Particular thanks to David Leung for his welding of all the critical structural joints in the frame.
To start with, the Bikeshed was a bare shell without even the upper floor. The joists were in place, so the upstairs was used to a limited degree for storage although there was no ladder up to it.
The floor happened only after a year or two of waiting for the chosen steel mesh to show up. The steel didn’t appear. Some of the team lost patience and installed timber instead. In retrospect, that has shown to be a better choice although it limited light to the lower floor.
The main workbench was built with timber from the ATA Solar Workshop when that was converted to office accommodation. With it came the vice, the drillpress and one of the bench grinders. The lathe came as well, although it’s been difiicult to make space to use it effectively.
The shelving upstairs was a particularly lucky retrieval. Bicycle Victoria’s management was about to throw it all into a skip when they were obliged to sell their members’ building in North Melbourne. We acquired it at the cost only of the effort of dismantling and removing it.
Thanks to Thorin for installing the shelving promptly, and pretty much single-handedly, when it was delivered.
And what a difference a little landscaping makes…
Around this time, Lou suggested building an arch of bicycle wheels out in front of the Bikeshed. The idea had a measured acceptance by members of the committee but its consqeuences have been strikingly beneficial.
The arch formed a conspicuous icon of the Bikeshed and bicycle recycling, and attracted a lot of attention to the Bikeshed.
As well, the arch raised the morale of Bikeshed volunteers in general and several other tasks were completed that had been talked about for a long time. Most particularly, these were the paving of the area in front of the shed and the cage for recyclable bikes behind the shed. The cage involved much moving of rocks and soil to reinforce the bank below, before the cage was built on top.
Particular thanks to Lou and Thomas for these projects, but also thanks to Joel and others who contributed some time to the work.
Even though it is not actually shelter from sun and rain, the arch defines a work area and has been very valuable in this. The cage largely protects bikes from pilferage, ensuring that bikes worth recycling remain recyclable.
Plans are to espalier fruit trees across the arch to provide shade in summer. The planting has begun and we’re waiting for the trees to grow enough that we can start training them.