How to make a bicycle kitchen in your city?


Recently, the public bicycle workshop VeloKukhnya "Garage 38" celebrated its first anniversary. This is a unique project for Belarus that has been operating on a volunteer basis for 5 years. Whether this experience can be adopted by other cities, we will find out from the existing “culinary specialists” of the workshop.

Most recently, the public bicycle workshop VeloKuhnya "Garage 38" celebrated its first anniversary. This is a unique project for Belarus, which has been operating on a volunteer basis for 5 years. Whether this experience can be adopted by other cities, we will find out from the existing “culinary specialists” of the workshop.

“I don’t give my bike to the workshop on principle”

- We call ourselves a non-profit workshop. We help people, but we do not do for them, - says Kirill Kudravets, a volunteer at Garage 38. This is a public bicycle workshop in Minsk, in the courtyard of 44B on Independence Avenue.

You can fix your bike at home, but only if you have the tools, spare parts and the willingness to wipe grease smeared on the linoleum. An alternative is to give it to a workshop or start your own garage.

Garage opening day, July 30, 2013. Photo: Denis Zelenko

- Now there are many good bike masters. But I, for example, never give a bicycle there on principle: I do not consider it to be such a complex mechanism that I cannot cope with myself. Another thing is that there is laziness ..., - says one of the creators of the bicycle garage Evgeny Horuzhy.

- Why do you need a garage? Watching a video about repairing a bicycle is one thing, but when you are clearly shown it is quite another. You learn faster this way, - explains Nikita, one of the volunteers.

- Garage mission? This is a kind of DIY (Do It Yourself - do it yourself - author's note). It is important for me that the garage demonstrates: help (advice, real help with hands, inspiration) can be obtained not for money. It's just because you need her. Some visitors are surprised by this, - reflects the chairman of the board of the Minsk Cycling Society Pavel Gorbunov.

- The garage is such a special place where you can come and tinker with iron in a broad sense, not only with a bicycle: carpentry, for example. This is necessary for all fanatics, because now it is not very popular to do something with your own hands. I mean, on the scale of humanity, - says the curator of the garage Lazy.

Photo: Anna Volynets

Party or service?

In the garage you can use:
· Space;
· Tools;
· Help of volunteers or other visitors.

Is it a hangout or a place with a large number of guests, or a free workshop? More like a get-together, many of the volunteers answer.

- It will not work here to say: "Fix it, and I will come in half an hour." But you can always ask for help, says Evgeny Horuzhy.

Photo: Denis Zelenko

In return, a person can:
· say thanks";
· Bring cookies to volunteers;
· Bring spare parts: any, including old (but no extremes), grease, rags.

Photo: Svetlana Ermakovich, CC BY-S license

Who comes here?

In addition to volunteers, there are regulars, random people and those who found a garage on purpose. In total, there are usually 5-15 people aged 25-35 a day, many of them for some reason are IT-shniki, most often men. About 1000 people pass through the garage every year, some of them come more than once.

First of all, those who have a little money to repair a bicycle, or who would like to learn how to repair it on their own, are happy to get help from the garage. In city workshops, this is unlikely to be learned. Then there are just people who want to chat about improving the bike.

Photo: Anna Volynets

How does a garage work?

The schedule can be found on the site, and now it is almost every weekday from 18 to 21 hours. People themselves mark in a google form when they can be on duty. In winter, the garage is open a couple of hours a week - there is no demand.

Who is doing this?

Volunteers and curators. Requirements for volunteers are decency and responsibility. The curator is a former volunteer voted on by the 50% current curators, who has received a key to the Garage and can be scheduled on duty.

Now there are about 10 of them, at least 1 person a day. There is no centralized management, and most decisions can be made by the three Garage curators coming together. In some cases, the consent of at least half of the curators is required.

The garage has a formal owner, but the project itself sometimes receives support from the MBO, of which it is a subsidiary project.

John Rosman, co-creator of Garage 38. Photo: Denis Zelenko, July 2013

How to work with incoming people?

Show them the Garage, tell them about its resources (tools, spare parts, volunteer help) and about the conditions under which they can be used. According to the participants of the Minsk Bicycle Kitchen, you can often see people standing at a distance who do not dare to approach. With such you can be the first to contact.

A place to fix your bike and hang out

A couple of MBO members have traveled to similar places in Europe, including Vienna during a meeting of the European Cycling Federation. In 2012, they were John Rosman and Yevgeny Horuzhy.

- Everyone, to one degree or another, was on fire with the idea, but John is the most. Why? I can't remember. I wanted to have a place where you can fix a bicycle and have parties, '' says Evgeny Horuzhy.

Recup'r in the French city of Bordeaux. Photo:

Dig up one and a half meters of snow and frozen spiders

The search for the premises took the whole 2013. 24-hour access from the street, affordable prices for buying or renting premises, and being suitable for dirty work - there were not many suitable places.

The factories then almost did not rent their areas, and the volunteers even looked at the bomb shelter, but rather out of curiosity - the long staircase down is not very convenient. The work schedule in such a place is up to 23 hours due to the neighborhood with the tenants.

In the end, John Rosman could not resist and, seeing an advertisement for the sale of a relatively inexpensive garage in the city center, bought it.

- The first time we came and saw: some frozen spiders are hanging, mold ... It was in winter. Before going there, we had to dig out one and a half meters of snow, up to the very top of the gate. Fortunately, a neighbor was doing this, and we took a shovel from him, - recalls Evgeny Horuzhy.

Photo: Anna Volynets

A similar garage in Vienna is located in a rented space. Money for payment is collected from voluntary contributions that guests make for beer.

- The cycle kitchen does not have to be run in the garage. The main thing is in a convenient location, preferably in the city center. It is important that it attracts not only well-groomed cyclists, but ordinary city dwellers, who are “on you” with a bicycle, would accidentally fall into it.

It will be enough 30 squares, preferably with access from the street. You can agree to take an empty utility room of the factory building. By the way, find out what forms of support for youth initiatives are carried out by the city authorities in your city.

You can try to negotiate with any organization that would like the idea of a free bike workshop: with an educational institution (as was done in Zhodino); a bike shop or even a regular cafe, for which the bike kitchen will attract visitors. What our bike kitchen just lacks is a bike shop nearby, which would sell the necessary parts in the evening, - believes Pavel Gorbunov.

Photo: Anna Volynets

Basic set - pump, stand, samovar

In the Minsk garage, they deepened the floor so as not to rest their head against the ceiling; redid the ventilation pipe, painted the room. Then volunteers Svetlana Ermakovich and Natalia Borichevskaya painted it inside and out. Specially hired workers were involved in the flooring, and the rest of the work took about a month from a dozen volunteers.

The ongoing costs of curators and volunteers are updating tools. The team also entered Social Weekend and did not win, but still received several hundred dollars from the organizers, for which they bought a drill, screwdriver, bicycle repair stand and a tool for tapping the carriage ...

Photo: Svetlana Ermakovich, CC BY-S license

Some of the furniture was bought, some were brought from their home. One table was remade from the old one, having bought wooden planks, hung a wooden board for tools, the rest of the tables were taken from the ME100 closing space. Someone brought a samovar.

- You need to find the money to start the garage: throw yourself off to activists, apply for a grant, interest the sponsor. If you do not buy a room, then perhaps 200-400 dollars will be enough to buy tools, furniture and things that provide minimal comfort. Plus, you will need to invest your time and energy in fine-tuning the premises. So it is advisable to find at least 3-5 activists and first infect them with the idea, - advises Pavel Gorbunov.

For an initial set of tools for a bicycle workshop, you can invest in a budget of about 200 Belarusian rubles. This is exactly how much you need for a pump, a stand and a basic set of tools for repairing a bicycle: wrenches, a set of hexagons, screwdrivers, specialized pullers, a hammer, a machine for straightening eights on the rim, a set for gluing cameras.

Photo: Denis Zelenko, July 2013

How to organize the space inside?

Divide it into functional areas. For example, in "Garage-38" on the left there are tools in organizers (shelves, boards with hangers), on the right - donation, or donated spare parts.
The main thing is to keep things in order and not to confuse left and right.

Photo: Svetlana Ermakovich, CC BY-S license

Once a month, they donate tools

To maintain such a garage, rent costs are needed (in Minsk it is 60-80 rubles per month), utility bills; depreciation of instruments, according to the curators' calculations, is 15-20 rubles a month and about 8 rubles for an alarm. About 10 rubles a year is spent on land lease and land tax.

There was a donation box in the Garage, but after a while they removed it, deciding that the very fact of the appearance of money attracted "dumb" people.
- It's one thing to steal tools, and another - money, - says Evgeny Horuzhy.
Now you can donate money through the MBO account.

But "there is no need for a direct flow of money here," according to John Rosman... We need tools and spare parts, they are brought by participants, but more often than others - several people. According to Kirill Kudravets, with the tools is not so bad, "once a month they will definitely give something."

Photo: Svetlana Ermakovich, CC BY-S license

Correction for "dumb" people

Once the garage was even robbed, and now there is an alarm there. Despite this, Evgeny Khoruzhy is sure that most people are honest.

- Yes, there are a few of those who are planning something, 2-3 times we lost our tools. But it is difficult to filter out people in advance, and you just need to make allowances for their existence.

It happened that someone took a lot of spare parts without giving Garage anything in return. Therefore, there is a rule: any spare parts must be put on the bike on the spot.

Electricity from the sun

Electricity is a separate story. Previously, the connection to the network at this and several other garages was done through a neighbor, but officials were reluctant to talk about direct connection: it is too difficult and expensive to pull the line underground. But in winter, short circuits occurred on the line, and the electricity was turned off.

Now it is received from solar panels and a little bit from a bicycle generator, which allows it to be autonomous from city power grids.

- It would be nice to have electricity for a drill, a sharpener, a kettle or something else ... But now it is needed mainly for lighting and signaling, and we have installed solar panels. Not without nuances: in winter they do not charge the batteries well, you need to carry them to charge, sweep the snow from the panels themselves. And do it all the time - the alarm cannot be de-energized, - says Evgeny Horuzhy.

Photo: Denis Zelenko,

How riot police came to tea

Garage-38 was inaugurated on July 26, 2013. The district policeman came and asked: "What have you got here?" Shrugged and left. According to Kirill Kudravets, this happens regularly:

- They ask what we are doing here. We answer that we are repairing bicycles. Sometimes they ask different questions: for example, how to choose a bike. Once there was a holiday in the church, a couple of riot police came up from there, drank tea and left. There was never any pressure, except that one day he was asked not to grill potato pancakes on the grill on the eve of Catholic Christmas.

The locals do not consider the garage a cult and are usually friendly. One man even regularly brought water to the children. But you still don't need to relax and it's better to remember that you need to take care of your neighbors:
· Respect;
· Help with the repair of bicycles;
· Make sure that crowds of cyclists do not scratch their doors;
· Do not block the entrance to other garages.

Photo: Anna Volynets

If there are no volunteers, you need to keep the door open.

They tried to conduct master classes in the garage. At first every month, now rather once a season. They even made a school for cycling masters, but “2-3 people reached the final.

- Unfortunately, this showed that organizational methods cannot work here, - says the director of the Moscow Military District Anastasia Yanchevskaya... - At some point, we, employees of the MBO office, began to watch the garage so that it was open. I could not provide expert support, but I could, for example, bring a less experienced cyclist to a more experienced cyclist. And a month later, experienced attendants were found.

You can search for volunteers through ads on social networks or through another communication channel in your city, for example, paper advertisements or advertisements in educational institutions, in thematic public organizations or local communities (ideally, a local cycling party).

Anastasia Yanchevskaya on the birthday of the Bicycle Kitchen, July 26, 2018 Photo: Anna Volynets

According to Anastasia, there should be two volunteers per shift: one helps with repairs, the other tells what a bicycle kitchen is and keeps order. From a gender balance point of view, it is best to have a boy and a girl.

At the same time, you must be prepared that the volunteers will not stay with you forever. Rather, for a month, a year or two, five years is an exception.

The garage dream is a pioneer man

- As long as there is a company of people who are not too lazy to buy tools, the garage will exist, - says one of the curators of the Bicycle Kitchen Lazy... - If 5 years ago we came here to do our own bicycles, now - to hang out and teach someone. In the last six months I have had a trick: I collect bicycles from donation and distribute them. Principles in the garage? As in any community: don't focus too much on yourself. "

Photo: Denis Zelenko, July 2013

“Now an innovator is needed in the garage - a person who would develop the idea,” says Pavel Gorbunov. - I would like the structure to be more independent and efficient in terms of development and decision-making, so that not only tactical, but also strategic problems are solved. But alas, there is no good administrator now.

The bicycle kitchen is a suitable place to start the career of a budding urban activist: you can learn about administration, work with volunteers.

The participants of the space themselves can learn to interact with each other to achieve a result without a leader. This is an important skill that is practically undeveloped in our society.

The bicycle kitchen can be used more widely: for example, to conduct educational events or regular master classes on bicycle repair (but this did not work for us, since there were no masters who were ready to conduct such master classes with some frequency).

On the basis of the bicycle kitchen, you can collect old and unnecessary bicycles, repair and give to those in need. In general, it is possible to organize parties of cyclists to consolidate the urban community and jointly solve urban problems.

- Plans for the future? We have to survive for another 5 years. Will there be another garage? He already exists in Grodno. And there are people in Minsk who want to do this too, ”says John Rosman.

Photo: Denis Zelenko, July 2013

Text: Anna Volynets

2018, August 9th

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