Offenders set wheels turning on free bike giveaway

Nathan Thompson has finished a two-month course
Nathan Thompson has finished a two-month course
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Hundreds of broken bikes will be repaired and recycled from scrap by young offenders and given away for free across the Capital.

Brake the Cycle – the first scheme of its kind in Scotland – will see offenders on Community Payback Orders shown how to fix bikes at one of four workshops in Muirhouse, Leith Sands, Murrayburn and Gracemount.

Bikes found at recycling centres or donated to the workshops are to be renovated and given away for free to community organisations, youth groups and deserving children.

Nathan Thompson, 27, from Leith, has just completed a two-month course.

He said: “It’s been brilliant. I knew a bit about bikes before I started and obviously after coming here I’ve learned a bit more.

“At some points, you might think you’re never going to finish a bike – you might not have the right parts or whatever.

“But when you do, it’s such a good feeling, especially when you know someone that needs it is going to be using it. I’ve thought about getting in to this as a line of work, and maybe this will give me a bit of a head start.

“Everything I have taken from this has been positives – I’ve learned how to work as a team with different groups of people.”

An estimated 40 bikes a month will be back on the road through the scheme and any which cannot be fixed will be stripped for parts and scrap metal.

The city council-run project, which received £28,000 funding from the Scottish Government’s Payback Sports Facilities Fund, was set to be officially opened today by Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and the council’s health and social care leader, Ricky Henderson.

Community service officer Jimmy Hewitt, who came up with the idea behind Brake the Cycle, said: “I’ve worked with offenders for more than 30 years and if people are doing something that they are interested in, they are more likely to put in much more energy and confidence.

“Most of our young offenders are young men under 25 and many have an interest in cycling. This scheme is about confidence building.

“We put a big emphasis on having a work ethos, people turning up on time and working with others.”

Councillor Henderson said: “This scheme is an absolute winner on so many different fronts. Not only are old or unwanted bikes being recycled and put to good use, but they are also being distributed for free to deserving organisations and young people.

“It’s also a great way of getting offenders involved in giving something back to their communities.

“We are giving offenders new skills and confidence by teaching them how to build a bike from scratch.

“The fact that they are taking part in something they are interested in makes for a more successful outcome.”