Monday 24 November 2014

How to use a local sharing site to save money, learn skills and connect with neighbours

Summary: Websites that allow neighbours to freely and easily give away or lend goods, services and skills are a great asset for utility cyclists seeking to save money, learn or share skills and connect with their neighbours. In Australia, I recommend Streetbank as the best site to do this through. It enables genuine sharing, building neighbourly relationships (especially around common interests) and resilient communities. In this post, I'll provide cycling-related examples using Streetbank of how such sharing services can provide valuable advantages for individuals, neighbours and communities.


Related Posts:
How to contribute to genuine, transformative sharing
Community and social group bike fix

1. About local sharing sites and Streetbank
- In Melbourne the original neighbourhood sharing site was called The Sharehood. One of the founders summed up the purpose of such sites very nicely:
The Sharehood aims to build joyful, sustainable and resilient communities by encouraging people to get to know their neighbours and share time, skills, and resources with them. The easiest way to explain it is social networking for your neighbourhood. Meet your neighbours online, find out what they’re interested in sharing, contact them, meet up in real life to borrow/lend/help out, or just find out about and attend community events.
Collaborative Consumption: 10 questions for Theo Kitchener, founder of The Sharehood
- Also see this article on the purpose and value of neighbourhood sharing: Online Opinion: Sharing is as easy as crossing the street

- The Sharehood migrated its users to Streetbank in 2013. Streetbank started in London but has since expanded to many other cities. The website is already quite useable and has the potential to develop into a very functional and frequently-used site that unlocks a lot of value for neighbours.
See: Streetbank - FAQs
> Streetbank Australia Facebook group
> Streetbank Australia Facebook page

- There are other local sharing sites used in Australia, but hardly any have a neighbourhood-building focus. The ones that allow you to sell or rent items for money (e.g. Open Shed) are profit-focused. Most of the free ones are purely about recycling stuff people are getting rid of (e.g. Melbourne Freecycle). I consider Streetbank to be the one most worth using as it is primarily focused on social outcomes. Of the rest, TuShare is probably most useful if simply looking to find bikes or cycling equipment that people are giving away.


> TuShare
> Zilch
Melbourne Freecycle
> Open Shed

2. Using Streetbank to share bicycle maintenance and repair tools
- The obvious, high-value usage of a neighbourhood sharing site is for lending bicycle tools. While cyclists should acquire the essential, regular tools themselves (pump, multi-tool, puncture repair), some infrequently-used tools are more expensive, harder to acquire (e.g. one that fits your bike's components), and may require some guidance as to how to use properly.

- Naturally one shouldn't assume that tool lenders will also be willing to help you fix your bike, they may just be offering their tools for use. However, some users may offer a degree of assistance or be prepared to swap skills or assistance.

- I have now acquired a comprehensive bike tool kit and also a repair stand and have made them freely available on Streetbank for both individuals and for community/non-profit groups. See the details below in point #7.

3. Using Streetbank to share and learn bicycle maintenance skills
- Sites like Streetbank can be used to share skills not just equipment; Streetbank has a sharing category called "skillshare" for this. Below I have indicated the simpler bicycle maintenance tasks I have the tools for and am willing to provide assistance with. Note that this type of free skill-sharing can be driven very much by the motivations of the sharer. I want to help more people to cycle for transport and so am happy to offer my time for free to those who need it most or people in my immediate neighbourhood. Other skill-sharers may accept reciprocity through receiving different skills/assistance or a non-financial thankyou (e.g. a beer or bottle of wine).

4. Using Streetbank to lend equipment that is expensive, bulky or underutilised
- We have a bicycle trailer that is only used for ferrying our pets around (rarely) or when I need to carry heavy or bulky items (e.g. cartons of beer). The rest of the time it sits unused in the garage. For people who similarly only need a bike trailer occasionally being able to borrow one for free from a neighbour is very useful.

- Similarly, I own a car bike carrier which is also rarely used (but extremely handy when we do use it). These bike carriers can be quite expensive and are hard to source at short notice - for instance if planning a trip away and wanting to take your bikes. It doesn't make sense for every household to own one of these sitting unused 98% of the time. Streetbank allows me to freely offer something quite valuable to anyone close enough to collect it.

5. Using Streetbank to borrow duplicate equipment you only need when family/friends are visiting, for social purposes or as emergency loans
- Occasionally we have family or friends visiting Melbourne and I would often like to go cycling with them (or lend them a bike) but naturally don't have a range of spare bikes on tap. Hiring bicycles from bike shops in Melbourne is also ridiculously expensive ($30/day) and thus we don't rent them. Meanwhile I'd estimate 50% of our neighbours have spare, unused bikes in their homes. Sites like Streetbank are the perfect solution for such circumstances and in future will be my go-to option.

- The existing rental market also let me down when my bike was stolen and I was without a decent bike for 2 weeks till I replaced it. It would have cost me around $200 to rent a bike for 2 weeks which is absurd given my new bike cost $380. With Streetbank you could get a short-term, loaner bike for free. This is incredibly useful. I can think of a few essential things that may break down or become unavailable that it would be valuable to loan for free on Streetbank till you replaced or repaired them.

6. Recycling spare, unsuitable or unutilised equipment that has limited recovery value
- Streetbank also fills the conventional purpose of recycling ("freecycling") unused spare equipment and parts. Cycling is a chief example of a consumption area which generates a lot of unused and spare parts over time as needs change, upgrades occur or due to purchasing mistakes. For example, I bought a $70 comfort saddle recently on special for $25 which my girlfriend rejected (for style reasons!) and it cost me $18 to post back to the retailer. That will be on Streetbank next time. It would be fantastic to make more unused equipment freely available to those who could benefit from it.

7. Collaborative purchasing of expensive or comprehensive equipment for neighbourhood use
- Often it just makes sense for people to have efficient access to an entire range of quality tools/equipment in one place. Unfortunately, the cost can be prohibitive and even if a single household could afford the entire kit, it often doesn't get purchased because the level of usage doesn't justify it. I think neighbourhoods would greatly benefit from shared tools that have broad usage and can be collaboratively purchased or receive post-purchase small contributions.

- The cycling example I have in mind is a neighbourhood bike fix-it shed equipped with a complete bike mechanic tool kit. These kits are typically too expensive to be justified for individual household use only but the potential payoff is huge if made available to many neighbours. The perfect scenario would be a bike mechanic (amateur or trained) who was interested in acquiring a complete, high quality tool kit but found the cost prohibitive. Neighbours could contribute financially and in return the bike mechanic could provide some technical assistance on bike fixes.

- I have now purchased a complete bike tool kit and a bike repair stand that I have listed on Streetbank and will make freely available:
(a) For use in my garage and rear laneway in Fitzroy North.
(b) For loan to community and non-profit bike kitchens/sheds where desired and transport is feasible.

Streetbank: Bike Tools, Repair, Maintenance, Skills (Adrian)

- The two items I purchased are:
Bike Hand: Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit (YC-748)
> Available from: Cycling Deal for $139 (free postage)

Bike Hand: Bicycle Repair Stand (YC-100BH)
> Available from: Cycling Deal for $99 (free postage)

Bike Hand: Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit (YC-748)

Bike Hand: Bicycle Repair Stand (YC-100BH)

- For reference the complete list of SKU codes for the tools contained in the kit are listed below with links to their specific product pages if available. This makes it easier for those wishing to use bike repair tools to determine if the tools available will fit their bike and components.

- chain scrubber (YC-791)
- freewheel turner (YC-501A)
- cable cutter (YC-767)
- chainring nut wrench (YC-271)
- chain scrubber (YC-790)
- hub cone spanner 13mm (YC-658-13)
- hub cone spanner 14mm (YC-658-14)
- hub cone spanner 15mm (YC-658-15)
- hub cone spanner 16mm (YC-658-16)
- hub cone spanner 17mm (YC-658-17)
- hub cone spanner 18mm (YC-658-18)
- hub cone spanner 19mm (YC-658-19)
- adjustable chain remover (YC-324SC)
- tire lever set of 3 pieces (YC-311)
- crank puller (YC-215CB)
- Spoke wrench 0.127''=3.2mm (YC-1A-1)
- Spoke wrench 0.130''=3.3mm (YC-1A-2)
- Spoke wrench 0.136''=3.5mm (YC-1A-3)
- pedal remover (YC-156A)
- cartridge B.B. tool (YC-26BB-2A)
- Bottom Bracket wrench (YC-27BB)
- Dust cap wrench (YC-27)
- Grease
- 8mm/10mm spanner (YC-151 8-10mm)
- 9mm/11mm spanner (YC-151-9-11mm)
- patch kit (YC-123)
- chain wear indicator (YC-503)
- 8 notch cartridge B.B. (YC-28BB)
- freewheel remover (YC-126-2A)
- Headset wrench 30/32/36/40mm (YC-153)
- ball-end hex key wrench 1.5/2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8/10mm (YC-623)
- flat/philips screwdriver (YC-611)
- T25

Further Info:
> Streetbank on Facebook
> Streetbank Australia on Facebook

Neighbourhood Sharing
> Online Opinion: Sharing is as easy as crossing the street
Sharing: if it’s so good, why don’t we do more of it?

Freecycle - Australia
> Melbourne Freecycle
> Friends with Things

Neighbourhood Social Networks
House Net

Collaborative Consumption
> Directory

Sustainable Consumption
> Make Wealth History

Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL)

The Story of Stuff Project
Blog: It’s Time to Replace More with Better

Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network

Transition Network
The Bicycle: a vehicle of Transition?
> Transition Darebin
> Transition Darebin - Transportation Ideas
> Transition Brunswick
> Transition Yarra

Community Finder

City of Yarra
> Environment - Community participation
> Sustainability groups
> Neighbourhood Houses

Inner North Foundation

Very Edible Gardens

Grattan Institute
> Cities for people
Social cities

Bike Fix
Velophile Australia: How to - Bicycle repair tools demystified!

The Conversation: Green hypocrites? Behaviour change in a consumerist society
Wired: The Newsletter That Became a $100M Business Selling Stuff to Dudes