The Birmingham Bike Foundry was launched in 2009 in south Birmingham by four people involved in a student-housing cooperative, most of whom were bike mechanics. The cooperative emerged out of the need for better biking access in Birmingham, as the current city cycling infrastructure was lacking. During the industrial revolution, Birmingham was known as the home of steel working. It used to lead global bike manufacturing. Now most of the bikes are manufactured in Taiwan.

The Birmingham Bike Foundry wants to bring it back to the Birmingham in a socially conscious way. They carry this out by recycling and refurbishing bikes providing affordable and green transport to customers.

Wearing the cooperative label proudly, The Birmingham Bike Foundry aims to source their goods from other cooperatives to enhance and promote intercooperation.

Today the cooperative has five mechanics, Sean, Chris, Alina, Ben, and Matt who are all members of the cooperative, most working part-time. Nancy is also a member working as an accountant. Having a trained framebuilder has allowed the Foundry to be the only biking cooperative in Europe to build bike frames.

The six worker members meet once a month to discuss the day-to-day management of the cooperative and hold two main meetings a year in summer and in winter to review their annual production plan.

To make bike purchases more accessible, the Bike Foundry developed two schemes. Their cargo bike scheme lets people try out their cargo bike for a low price before purchasing it; there are currently six bikes in the fleet but the plan is to expand further to twenty-four. The cycle to work scheme allows customers to pay for the cargo bikes through a salary sacrifice scheme, rendering bikes more accessible. They also refurbish donated bicycles at a low cost.

In addition, the cooperative offers services to the community, such as providing bike maintenance lessons for the general public and schools, providing a variety of maintenance courses, as well as working closely with a special needs school in the area.

It also allows access to their meeting room for all members to use when they want, this can be for lessons or meetings. This room was used to give Kurdish refugees English lessons in the past, showing a strong responsibility to the community.

The cooperative stands for maintaining local cultural heritage, sustainable and green transport, local development with strong union and worker values. To help achieve these goals they have joined Radical Routes, a network of housing and worker cooperatives aiming to make a radical change in the society.

The aim is to expand their workshop, and offices and create a housing complex while working in tandem with other cooperatives for this space. This will allow them to provide housing for their members as a real benefit. They provide a living wage and flexible working hours to their workers on top of this.

They are looking into growing their connections outside the UK. Since Brexit, cooperation with other bike worker cooperatives in the EU has been limited but they still try to remain as involved as possible attending worker cooperatives events all over Europe. If you are a bike worker cooperative, outside the UK get in touch.

“The staff aim to create a fair and just world where they can support their workers and their community while promoting green transport” says Sean Farmelo, one of the members.

As the Birmingham Bike Foundry looks to the future, it stands as an example of sustainable transport, local empowerment, and social responsibility. The cooperative principles have created a culture of inclusivity and environmental stewardship that is helping the Birmingham Bike Foundry achieve their mission for a greener, more connected community.

Birmingham Bike Foundry is a member of, our UK member.