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Social enterprise Bikeworks to ‘go back to its roots’ after leaving Bethnal Green home

PUBLISHED: 12:00 09 August 2018

Emily Esche and Jim Blakemore outside their new velodrome home, which they believe will enable them to increase their services. Picture: Ken Mears

Emily Esche and Jim Blakemore outside their new velodrome home, which they believe will enable them to increase their services. Picture: Ken Mears

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A social enterprise cycling group has moved from Bethnal Green to Stratford after its headquarters were earmarked for redevelopment.

Emily Esche, the head of business development,  working on a bike in the maintenance room. Picture: Ken MearsEmily Esche, the head of business development, working on a bike in the maintenance room. Picture: Ken Mears

Bikeworks, which was based in Cambridge Heath Road for seven years, moved into the Olympic Park’s velodrome on August 1.

Before the move, the site experienced four break-ins in six weeks.

“We’ve known since last year that our old home was going to be redeveloped, so we had to move,” CEO Jim Blakemore, 44, said.

“We’ve always had a desire to run something in the Olympic Park. This is an iconic venue and it’s an opportunity to grow.

Founder and CEO Jim Blakemore fixing a donated bike which is used during the all ability sessions. Picture: Ken MearsFounder and CEO Jim Blakemore fixing a donated bike which is used during the all ability sessions. Picture: Ken Mears

“Everything we do is about reaching out to people who need our help, like those with a disability or social barrier. Here we have people already into cycling, but our main aim is to inspire people into cycling, and this venue can help that.”

Bikeworks has been running for 12 years, expanding from its original base in Wormwood Scrubs to three sites in Victoria Park, Wormwood Scrubs, and the VeloPark. The enterprise also has a mobile van, which goes to day centres and schools to run activities.

Programmes include maintenance sessions and all ability cycling courses, aimed at making cycling accessible to everyone.

“Our main aim with Bikeworks is inclusivity,” head of business development, Emily Esche, 33, said.

Founder and CEO Jim Blackmore with Emily Esche at Bikeworks' new home in the Lee Valley VeloPark. Picture: Ken MearsFounder and CEO Jim Blackmore with Emily Esche at Bikeworks' new home in the Lee Valley VeloPark. Picture: Ken Mears

“We’re not trying to force people to become cyclists. But we want people, who feel like sporting activities aren’t for them, to feel like they can try cycling.”

The group has around 150 bikes, including tricycles, wheelchair platform bikes and a side-by-side bike, which is used by people with disabilities. During one of the recent break-ins, part of the side-by-side bike was stolen.

“We had already decided to move when the break-ins happened,” Jim said.

“But it was just a sad taint to the end of our time there.”

While the new space won’t have a shopfront, like their Cambridge Heath Road site, Jim said the move is a positive step for Bikeworks.

“Here we can go back to our roots,” he said.

“I started Bikeworks to address social problems like worklessness, and lack of access to facilities.

“We can do that across Hackney, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Newham now, because we’re more centrally based.”

A smaller Bikeworks shop is also being opened in a different location on Cambridge Heath Road.

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