Two Berlin workshops

A constant complaint in Brussels volunteer workshops is the lack of stable premises to operate. I even helped one of them ‘move house’ last month. Last weekend in Berlin I managed to visit two workshops, and found both had stable premises. The ADFC Werkstatt, Berlin-Mitte, is situated in the ADFC Berlin headquarters. ADFC is the everyday cyclists organisation, with about 150,000 members. They offer insurance to members, publish guides and maps, etc. The workshop was given its space at the back of the building for free, along with financial assistance to buy tools and stands, and has a moderate range of opening hours. The front has  a bookshop and a few bike parts for sale too. The workshop has pretty much every tool on hand except welding gear. The volunteer we talked to has been working there 13 years, and the workshop is older than that. Non-members of ADFC are welcome and they just take donations and the costs of parts from them. The workshop can afford this because they do not have major outgoings. Arriving on Friday, it was busy. Bike security engraving was also going on. It was nice to see some older, expert mechanics at work.

A second workshop was the Fahrradwerkstatt in the Regenbogenfabrik, in hipster-alternative Kreuzberg (photo on right). This is a legalised former squat, run as a collective, with several activities in the buildings including a cinema, restaurant, and woodworking studio. You pay at least E3 a session plus parts, and as at ADFC, often have to work on your bike outside when it is crowded. The space is stable (gone are the days of housing battles with the police in the 1980s), and the precise nature of labour (volunteer or paid) I am still not sure about, since they were really busy when I was there. They have bike hire and some other paying activities.

Berlin was extremely interesting. Good road treatments for bikes (but certainly not everywhere, and some lanes are pretty ropey), decent junctions designs, masses of bikes around (unlike Brussels, modal share has reached over 10%). Nobody wears a helmet and the city is moderately flat. Different bike hire possibilities at shops, and also citybikes. I am sure it is grimmer in winter!  There are other workshops, but weekend hours are very limited so I could not visit – maybe this is just not a tradition there, to be open at weekends. One workshop I really wanted to interview, Bike Aid Berlin offering bikes just to refugees and people without papers, closed its doors semi-permanently before I could get there, following a vigorous debate about its identity politics and mission.

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