Bike Shed Community Response: Bikers really can make a difference

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The Bike Shed have launched a volunteer programme that enables bikers to make important deliveries and help those in need. Called Bike Shed Community Response, the project has seen over 500 bikers sign up to be volunteers, moving parcels all across the country, and MCN have signed up too.

The idea came about a few weeks ago after Bike Shed founder Vikki van Sommeren had a friend in need. Realising the power of the motorcycle community, the Bike Shed went in search of partners, ultimately joining forces with Gophr – an existing courier app.

Gophr worked hard to adapt their app for volunteers and in just a matter of weeks, people were already out there making deliveries. With the promise of it being super simple, we signed up ourselves and got out there, too.

MCN's Jordan Gibbons got involved

The first step is to give them your details just to show that you have a bike, a licence and proper insurance to be on the road. You don’t need commercial insurance, nor advanced riding qualifications. Once your info is in the system, it’s as simple as saying what the biggest parcel is that you can carry and how far you’re willing to travel to make a delivery.

In no time at all, our first job popped up: collecting PPE parts from Light Initiative, a company in West London, to be delivered to people in Bishops Stortford, Brentwood and Southend.

“Our business is virtually closed at the moment,” said Joachim from Light Initiative. “We’re now part of 3D Crowd UK – a volunteer network of people with 3D printers.

“We normally make lighting equipment but we have cutting machines, so we’re using those to create visors for faceshields. The visors go out to people with 3D printers who make the headbands.”

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Making a big difference

George Kiernan

With 300 visors loaded into a bag, we headed for our first stop – a 50-mile dash out of London to Bishops Stortford. There George Kiernan, another member of 3D Crowd, was waiting.

“This delivery app really is excellent,” said George. “We were using traditional couriers at first but they’re struggling with demand as it is. Now I have these visors, I can finish making the shields and get them to people who need them. Tomorrow, I’ll be dropping off around 200 to a local hospice.”

Bike Shed bibs let the public know there's a good reason for riding

The 3D Crowd community is all over the UK and it’s built on a network of ‘hubs’. One person acts as a hub for their local area, with each person manufacturing a different part. Reg Barber, a keen motorcyclist himself, is the hub member for Southend.

“People bring me visors and headbands,” said Reg. “I then add the elastics and assemble the finished piece before delivering them to people who need them. It’s nice for the Bike Shed to be involved – I used to ride there on my Harley before this happened. There’s so many of us out there and it’s a great community – it shows that bikers really can make a difference.”

Volunteer bike courier

Volunteer courier Carl

“I first found out about this on Facebook and I’ve now done three drops,” says volunteer rider Carl. “So far it’s all been PPE prototypes, with one going from the Royal College of Dentristy to Whittington Hospital, so they can trial them.

“Another came from a school, where they’ve been using their 3D printers. I’m moving things around on a 1978 Honda CD185. I’m still working full time at the British Library, but they’ve been great supporting staff to do volunteering.”

Team Rubicon

“Team Rubicon is a disaster response organisation that takes military veterans and retrains them, so they can provide help in places the UN consider unreachable. 

“We’ve been working with the Government to help support their volunteering mission. We’ve also got our own response teams plugging critical gaps in the NHS and even helping prop up care homes that are lacking staff. We now have 6000 people signed up and helping in the community.

“Paul, one of our trustees, is a member of the Bike Shed and knew they wanted to get out on their bikes to do good. We’re partnering with this project, so we can use bike couriers to quickly deliver PPE and medicines to the people who really need it.”

So what’s next?

“We’ve teamed up with Team Rubicon now for different types of tasks,” said the Bike Shed’s Anthony ‘Dutch’ van Sommeren. “We’ve now provided people with stickers and bibs too. We just need more people, especially those outside London, to get involved.”

The Bike Shed needs you: App lets motorcycles help those in need and you can be part of it

First published on May 7 2020 by Jordan Gibbons

Emilio and friend Dan delivered PPE to a hospital

The Bike Shed have created an app that taps into the motorcycle community to get important coronavirus supplies to those who need it most. Users are able to input how much they can carry and the app provides them with tasks, such as taking PPE to hospitals or food to vulnerable people. The venue have been working on it in the background for weeks, but now they’re ready for people to get involved.

“Some friends of mine needed help and I thought there must be a way we could harness the power of the motorcycling community,” says the Bike Shed’s Vikki van Sommeren. “We have an amazing community, so we just needed to bring that together.”

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The Bike Shed have teamed up with Gophr, an existing courier app, who have worked hard to adapt their app to the needs of motorcycle volunteers. No previous experience of couriering is required, nor do you need a specially adapted bike or advanced rider qualifications – you just need a road legal bike, a licence and insurance.

The scheme is tailored to smaller jobs, so no one will be asked to carry 300l of water, but Indian have provided a couple of their big cruisers which people can use to take larger packages on longer distances. Even though it’s in its early stages there are already hundreds signed up and accepting tasks on a daily basis. But they still need more people.

Bike Shed Community Response logo

“The more people we have, the bigger area we can cover,” adds Anthony ‘Dutch’ van Sommeren. “Right now most of our volunteers are in and around London but we want to expand. We’re also working with disaster response specialists Team Rubicon, which could lead to people carrying medical supplies.”