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Why are Bicycle Network Building Workshops stopped? (24.09.2014)
Bicycle Network Building Workshops (BNBW) has stopped their weekly sessions in Bike Kitchen North East (BKNE) for some time now – after 4 months of practical skill sharing activity. The group work focused on building a bicycle network in Berlin. It would have consisted of collectively owned bikes to be shared by the self-organizing asylum and supporting activists in Berlin – in the framework of No Border Camp Berlin Reloaded Programs.
Bike Kitchen North East is a collective non-profit bicycle workshop in the house project KuBiZ in Berlin Weissensee. Bike Kitchen North-East would normally open its doors once a week, when the infrastructural group would be around for a chat, advice or assistance. Nevertheless, another two, more specific bike-programs: the Bicycle Network Building Workshop described above (Saturdays) and an initiative called BikeAid (sometimes Sundays), would be hosted in the same space on a different time schedule Aside from the weekly Saturday sessions, all of the Bicycle Network Building activists would also occasionally work in either one or both of the other two programs held in the workshop. One activist of Bicycle Network Building Workshops was also a founding member of BikeKitchen Nort-East and has been a pro-active member thereof.
As Bicycle Network Building Workshops, we, a group consisting of people with various legal statuses in Germany, found it impossible to continue work in a socially irresponsible environment of Bike Kitchen. Why? The Bike Kitchen is unwilling to deal with violence in a “self-organizing and autonomous” left project which claims to challenge discrimination. We found it completely unacceptable that strategic partnership between Bike Kitchen North East and discriminating groups (such as BikeAid) should be formed, let alone the fact that they are tolerated! Bike Kitchen North East disrespect their own fundamental rules of behavior set for the workshop. Basic principles of common sense that underline a duty to confront discrimination have not only been signed into a “Contract of autonomous agreement” between BKNE & a hosting house project KuBiZ, but also published in print and online. Accordingly, the Bike Kitchen infrastructure was (unfortunately just theoretically) always radically open to everyone: independently of socio-legal constructions such as race, gender or status (“Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe soll aber eine Möglichkeit bieten zu lernen und alles rund um Fahrradmechanik selber zu machen – für alle unabhängligvon Gender-, „Rassen“-, Status- oder Klassen-Konstruktionen. Keine Art Diskriminierung wird toleriert.“ http://bikekitchennortheast.wordpress.com/programmen/).
On the 1st June 2014, one activist of the Bicycle Network Building Workshops, was shouted at during BikeAid workshops, to which he was regularly participating, by a BikeAid member: “to shut up because they are there to work and not to talk”. The man screaming did not understand the Arabic language spoken by two friends at the time – who were shouted at. The other Bicycle Network Building activist who witnessed the incident had requested a principal explanation of the discriminating behavior but was first ignored by the BikeAid group as a whole. BikeAid also silently agreed to another member’s statement that “you are either with us or against us” – no critique regarding the incident will be accepted and “no discussion from this is to follow”. The activist then tried to find ways to address this issue in the Bike Kitchen North East meeting, but was himself accused of:
1. “Trying to present his personal problem with another individual” as a principal issue – it was said that two people must rather meet in private and work it out between themselves;
2. Discriminating the mentally ill (the screaming individual is “so messed up he’s nice to nobody, xenophobia has got nothing to do with his horrible behavior”)
3. Being a cis-male and “therefore an aggressively competitive activist”;
The proposal by the Bicycle Network & Bike Kitchen activist to address the ugly behaviour of BikeAid was met by disagreement from BKNE: there will be no group – to – group approach. One alternative proposal suggested Bike Kitchen could “distance itself from the dualistic practice of BikeAid”. In other words, BKNE was to do both: simultaneously promote and support but “distance itself from” the exclusive concept and discriminating behavior of BikeAid. Needless to say, the Bike Kitchen has „dealt“ with the situation with complete ignorance about what the people, who have been shouted at, felt about the incident themselves.
It is ridiculous that in the internal Bike Kitchen North East discussion there would be some critical treatment of the fundamental conception of BikeAid, but actual attacks would not make BKNE do anything at all! At around the same time, some discussion has been generated by a proposal of yet another BikeAid member to hold extra preparation evening-workshop in the rooms of Bike Kitchen North East which would be held, quote, “without refugees”. Having received critique, protagonists would try to legitimate the same proposal by claiming to „help the poor”. To add insult to the injury, yet another activist of Bicycle Network Building Workshops has been racially profiled by the BikeAid: say “regular hours” of BKNE were only open to the “normal people”. It took effort for the person to convince BA about the fact that he works in the space on the regular basis and keeps in touch with the hosts.
Expressions by BikeAid members described above show that ‘white’ & „German“ still means ‘normal’ to them and thus that exclusion is justified in the group. Considering the fact that BikeAid receives financial and structural support by so called refugee care organisations it is evident once more how ‘support’ groups abuse refugees for money laundering and political profiling.
As a former member of Bike Kitchen North East, one of our activists must also mention the reluctance with which the remaining group members would try to understand the different structural needs & barriers that non-German and non-‘white’ people face. Even if in some way this was achieved, jokes were still thrown at the attempts to set up a security concept for the workshop which is situated in the building monitored by nazis, that has problems with racist neighbors and has been recently set on fire. Furthermore, there have been attempts in the Bike Kitchen group to financially profit from both: „work with refugees“ in general and from collaboration with Bike Aid in particular (finance applications or donation requests in their name have been either proposed in word or even drafted without any prior discussion – by members of Bike Kitchen North East).
DOWN WITH THE EUROCENTRISM IN CYCLING! Really open and social bicycle workshop in Berlin remains a slogan.
If you would like to receive updates of possible future developments regarding such skill sharing program – described below – please contact us.
Hands-on workshops have been taking place in “Bike-Kitchen North-East” in Berlin Weissensee, Bernkasteler Str. 78, KUBIZ social center every Saturday 13.00 – 18.00. The action has been stopped until further notice; http://bikekitchennortheast.wordpress.com/)
The struggle to create a real human community teaches us a lot about the national and continental borders, but similar barriers exist in the seemingly local modes of transport. While a range of different means of travel are organized by the Secure Transport for All group, public transport remains unsafe for asylum-dependent people because of the attacks by both: discriminating authorities and racist citizens. Therefore, bicycle network building workshops could provide a viable, autonomous alternative for local activist transit in Berlin, which would then facilitate other social & political programs creation.
The program should encourage participants to confidently make decisions while moving around the city on a bicycle, as well as solving bike related problems by themselves, but it doesn’t stop here. Our major aims are two: the first one is establishing a functioning network of collectively owned bicycles, and the second one is sustaining a bike network building as a process in itself. We start with fixing a number of donated bicycles to be used by all No Border camp Berlin Reloaded (NBBR) program participants. We continue with arranging free and regular access to the bicycle workshop spaces for interested asylum-dependent activists so that the mentioned bikes can be maintained and further projects can be started (e.g. building a cargo bicycle to be used by other NBBR process infrastructures in their activities). The initiative is open to support personal interests in mastering the craft of bicycle repairs or custom bike building for as long as the project as a whole retains a social character: non-discrimination and skill sharing remain key. Still, we stress the political nature of collective network building as our main objective and aim to facilitate discussions on the topics like social history, theory & environmental issues of cycling.
Too many bicycle fanatics are Eurocentric. Mechanics in Germany must be reminded of their arrogant specialist role, and it is to be questioned through the practice of opening workshops to all genuinely interested in creative-mechanical projects. Most self-help bicycle workshops in Berlin are either unaffordable or institutionally racist (state funded exclusively for HartzIV receivers / students). Furthermore, as an integral part of the No Border Camp Berlin Reloaded (NBBR) processes, this hands-on bicycle program of skill-sharing focuses on the infrastructure opening and building for the long term activities, not money or “help for the weak”. This is a program to be realized among human beings, no one is to profit from (statistical) “work with the refugees”. Finance applications in the name of Bicycle Network Building Workshops do not exist.
How you can participate:
- Take part in the workshop program (sessions place & time listed above)
- Donate (bicycle locks & other related accessories, e.g. portable tools)
- Ride the bicycles! (details to be updated shortly)
How will the bikes be shared?
The bicycle network will be free to be used by all participants of the NBBR to reach destinies within Berlin. The access to the bikes will be guaranteed through the info-point (where the keys to the bike-locks will be stored). In case many bikes are needed for a collective action or travel, reservations will be possible. We plan to set the standard for bikes to be borrowed for a maximum of 24h, because these are collective bikes which should be available for everyone. All usage will be noted down in a journal, in order to let the repair team know what to inspect and to secure a transparent use of the bicycles.