Thursday, 30 November 2006

Blokes who fix bikes

I have a deep respect for people who love what they do and are really good at it. Exactly what ‘it’ is doesn’t really matter. Pete Barnes and Chris Franks are two such people: the ‘blokes who fix bikes’ in the Precinct most Saturday mornings (10 to 12). They’ve been doing it, for free, for 15 years because, says Chris, they like to see people on their bikes and, says Pete, it’s their form of civic responsibility. They’re based outside Fizroy House, the ‘front garden’ of Chris’s parents. They help some people on low income and when they get donations they resurrect old bikes and pass them on to others who need them.

People’s lack of knowledge about bikes is truly frightening, says Pete. Most people are put off riding bikes because they don’t even know how to change a tyre, and they’re not prepared to spend money on a bike, unlike a car. Pity. Bikes are on my ‘These are a few of my favourite things’ list. Without cheap fossil fuel we, like Cubans, might suddenly understand the amazing power of the bike. Chris and Pete could become recognised as the local heroes they already are. Meanwhile Chris and Pete like the fact that something can be genuinely free, with no obligations. They like Lewes. They like to be able to be informal. ‘We like to confound people’s opinions about what society should be.’

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