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Cycle mechanics project set up by teenagers aims to tackle Camden gang crime

From left to right: Marj Abedin, Amir Miah, Parvas Ali, Emran Miah and Rahel Miah. Picture: Polly Hancock. From left to right: Marj Abedin, Amir Miah, Parvas Ali, Emran Miah and Rahel Miah. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
10:05 AM

A youth project aimed at reducing gang crime in Camden by training young people to become cycle mechanics is offering bike services at a new pop-up shop.

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Evolution Cycle Co, set up by a group of teenagers in 2009, opened the shop at Camden Collective in Camden High Street, Camden Town, on Monday last week and hopes to find a permanent base in the near future.

The shop, which is open every day except Sunday, offered a free bike check-up to anyone who visited in the first week and also sells a range of second-hand bikes and pedal-powered smoothies.

The company’s two apprentices, Jay Rashid, 23, and Emran Miah, 20, are working at the shop as part of their training to gain an industry-recognised qualification for bike mechanics.

Parvaz Ali, 19, one of the founding directors, said: “At the moment, we are training up two young people full-time. One of them has just come out of prison and the other one has been out of employment or education for two years.

“Jay went to prison for a few charges. Now he’s come out he has a child and he’s trying to change his life around, so we gave him this opportunity.

“Emran left secondary school and went on to do an apprenticeship in carpentry. The teaching provided wasn’t very good, the tutor had to be replaced, so he got fed up and left. After that, he was looking for jobs, but nothing had come up, so we approached him.”

Mr Ali, a former Regent High School pupil, set up the firm in 2009 with teenage friends Amir Miah, Marj Abedin, Rak Islam and Rahel Miah, running bike-repair classes at the Surma Centre in Regent’s Park for young people living on nearby estates and giving away bikes donated by police.

“We get the young people to fix the bikes and then we sell them on,” said Mr Ali.

In 2012, the company received a £27,000 social enterprise grant from Camden Council, enabling it to employ the apprentices and pay them the London Living Wage.

“I grew up in Camden and there’s a lot of crime,” said Mr Ali. “I used to see a lot of people at the community centre who started to mix with the wrong groups and got involved in gangs and crime.

“With this recession, it’s just so hard now to get a job. There aren’t many opportunities, so for many people crime is a way to get by.

“We want to reduce gang crime in Camden. We want young people to see that there are opportunities for them. If you get qualifications, there are opportunities.”

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