Urban bike workshop spins old wheels, not trash

As a child, Nathanael Singer went to school on rollerblades in Tel Aviv. Later, he switched to cycling and developed a passion for cycling around the city.

Five years ago, he combined his enthusiasm for cycling with his determination to reduce the amount of waste in Israel by Pnimeet bicycle recyclingan NGO that encourages people to reuse and recycle old bikes and bike parts instead of throwing them in the trash.

Last year, Pnimeet (Hebrew for inner tube) recycled 1,400 bicycles.

Singer got the idea to recycle bicycles during a trip to Paris where he delivered hummus and other street food on his own recycled tricycle. He discovered a Parisian store that sold old bicycles and spare parts and decided to bring the idea to Tel Aviv.

His friend, Lior Levy, was skeptical and didn’t think it would catch on. But the two friends sponsored an event at a Tel Aviv community center that drew a cheering crowd. The singer tells ISRAEL21c that they realized, “We have to do this.”

Pnimeet Bike-Recycling has workshops in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The workshop on Salome Street in Jaffa is filled with old bikes, parts and tools. There, volunteers show people how to fix broken bikes so they don’t end up in the trash.

People repair bicycles at the Jaffa workshop. Photo courtesy of Pnimeet

For NIS 150 a year, people can come to the workshop to repair and build their own bikes which they can then take home.

The workshop also organizes various events to promote cycling in the city and sponsors courses for young people.

“When young people learn to fix broken bikes, it gives them self-esteem,” Singer said. “They manage to do something.”

A really cool bike

As an industrial engineer, Singer likes to design and redesign things. He believes in educating people to understand that instead of throwing away a broken bike, they can fix it.

Singer himself has recycled and restored three bicycles that he uses to get around Tel Aviv.

He said he hopes to educate people about “the abundance of things that can be found on the streets and then used.”

Only around 25% of Israel’s waste is recycled, he says, compared to around 50% in other OECD countries.

Dina Melamed repairing a bicycle at Pnimeet in Jaffa. Photo courtesy of Pnimeet

Often, Pnimeet volunteers pick up abandoned bikes from apartment buildings after receiving permission from property management companies. Municipalities alert the organization when there are abandoned bicycles and people can also donate them.

There are bikes worth thousands of shekels ending up at Pnimeet and “people can get a really cool bike,” Singer said. “But I want it to remain a hobby for them, not a business.”

A sense of unity

Ady Zezak, 31, who lives in Jaffa, said she never even knew how to ride a bicycle. When she wanted to learn a short time ago, she heard about “the opportunity not only to reuse, recycle and create, but also to learn more about bicycles”.

She joined Pnimeet and learned how to fix a bike from volunteers like Smadar Ariel, 34, who said when she started at the workshop she didn’t know bike mechanics but she was curious.

“I learned by doing,” she says. “The other volunteers were amazing and now I welcome newcomers and try to bring a sense of togetherness to the workshop.”

The workshop welcomes “anyone who wants to come,” Singer said. He said one of his passions is working with the Tel Aviv Municipality to improve the city’s bike paths.

“Today people are starting to cycle on a lane that ends in a tree,” he said with a mixture of humor and frustration. However, he thinks city hall planners are working hard to connect all the bike paths into a network so that people can cycle everywhere in Tel Aviv within the next five years.

“Tel Aviv is heading towards Amsterdam,” he said confidently.

For more information (in Hebrew) on Pnimeet, Click here

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