If you go down to the canals today, you’re in for a big surprise, because these days there’s a barge with a load of bikes on board! No, this isn’t some new-fangled way of the committing the Great Birmingham Bike Robbery, but a fantastic bike-based social enterprise project in the heart of Birmingham.

Cycle Chain have been going for over ten years, broadening opportunities for people with specific learning needs by using the bicycle as a learning tool and, at the same time, promoting cycling as a cheap, sustainable form of transport. They receive bikes from the police, give them a thorough refurbishment. and sell or pass them on to universities or the North Birmingham Bike Project. The reconditioning is used as a way of teaching people with learning difficulties some practical skills, by shadowing and assisting the bike mechanics as they work.

Cycle Chain now has a new project working from a barge on the Cambrian Wharf. The old cargo narrowboat, sold to them by British Waterways for £1, has been renovated in partnership with CENTRO as a bike storage and maintenance area.

Not only this, but they have applied to put in bike racks on the moorings next to the barge, so that they can offer secure supervised cycle storage as well as maintenance. Cycle Chain mechanics will work with people with learning difficulties on the upkeep of bikes, and provide supervision of the bikes, which are locked onto the new racks on the quayside. They will charge £1.50 for cycle storage and £30 for a full maintenance check whilst the owner is at work. The volunteers will also be on hand to talk to people about bikes and the work of Cycle Chain.

In the summer, this social enterprise also plans to further the services they provide by offering bike hire and cycle tours, again with people with learning difficulties being at the forefront of communicating with the public. This is a very inspiring project and we can’t wait to see bike storage and maintenance available out of a canal barge in the centre of our city!