The ASBL MolemBIKE was born in 2021 as the result of a multi-year project (2016-2021) carried out within the Maritime Community Centre of Molenbeek. But originally it was just a party...
The first edition of MolemBIKE (original name "Molenbike!") saw the light of day on 4 June 2016 in Molenbeek, with the idea of creating a cycling festival in the Maritime district of the Brussels municipality. The one-day festival consisted of a number of activities in the district, in partnership with several cycling and Molenbeek associations. There was a Short Loop to discover the Commune and a Long Loop of around 40km for more experienced cyclists. The success of the first event encouraged the organisation of 3 other annual editions, each more ambitious and richer than the last. "MolemBIKE 2018 saw thousands of cyclists from the Critical Mass Nationale take part. The 2019 edition, the year of the Tour de France in Brussels, saw the first appearance of the cycling fanfare, under the direction of musical artist Peter Veyt.
The one-off events spontaneously created demand and the setting up of a more sustainable, long-term dynamic ("Le Maritime à Vélo"). Under the impetus of founders Edoardo Luppari and Fabio Checcucci, coordinator of the Maritime Centre, and project leader and guide Riet Naessens, cycling lessons for women were set up from October 2017. From 2018 the project was subsidised and supported by Brussels Mobility, and evolved over the years to eventually become the Hirond'ELLES project. The year of COVID marked a real turning point, with the acquisition of the Tour & Taxis workshop and growing demand. Benjamin Tollet, a son of art, joined the team. What began as a neighbourhood project has become a veritable movement for emancipation - what a success!
Other events have been organised around cycling over the years: bike apéros, debates, workshops, courses, training, parades, the Light Your Bike festive evenings in October. The first Light Your Bike took place in October 2017, with two remarkable replicas in 2018 and 2019.
The sheer volume of activities (and bikes) meant that there was a growing need for a place to store bikes, carry out maintenance and hold meetings. This opportunity was provided by the Citroën-Vergote Urban Renewal Contract, which financially supported the creation of a participatory bicycle workshop in the Tour & Taxis cellars. A new phase had begun! Dozens of volunteers enthusiastically joined the project which, after a gestation phase and under the guidance of CyCLO, saw the light of day in spring 2020. The first meeting at the bike workshop took place in early November 2019. It was covidic times, so our inauguration on 10 March 2020 was postponed.
2020 Barak'à Fiets: On the other hand, a team of highly committed volunteers, coordinated by Edoardo Luppari, set up the first mobile deconfinement bike workshop: Barak'à Fiets. A summer on the front line and hundreds of bikes repaired - the enthusiasm was there! At the end of the year, we had time to organise a bike exhibition as part of the artists' trail. The second lockdown began that very evening! However, the Tuesday evening DIY workshops were able to continue under very strict conditions.
2021 A year of consolidation and empowerment. Les Hirond'ELLES made the headlines, the participatory workshop and its team of volunteers grew at an impressive rate, Barak'à Fiets proved its worth over a long summer between the Rues d'été and Tour & Taxis, and the second Kidical Mass in Brussels (1080) began a long story!
On 25 November, in front of an assembly of over 40 people, the ASBL MolemBIKE was born. A real success, but also a challenge. The declared and consensual aim was to make the Maritime Community Centre association autonomous, where management had become less easy - for administrative, logistical and political reasons - while maintaining a structural partnership with our "parent company". In September, several authorities visited MolemBIKE and Les Hirond'ELLES: the Federal Minister for Mobility and Deputy Prime Minister Georges Gilkinet, and Sarah Schiltz, Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity.
2022 MolemBIKE is coming of age, finding its place and developing its network in conjunction with other projects to get people into the saddle and give them access to bicycles. This is the year the VeloLa[e]ken project gets underway, with our association partnering with Pro Velo, CyCLO and Ride Your Future ASBL. A top-class mechanic joins our team: Colombian Mauricio Forero takes care - among other things - of the Hirond'ELLES bikes, and at the same time gives a more professional form to the workshop. The group of volunteers is gaining more and more confidence in the decentralised management and organisation of the workshop. A trainee joined the team: Léna Dumontier, and an "old" acquaintance: Joëlle Carpentier joined us in November as a mechanic. In September, Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt paid us a visit. In October, the workshop organises its first "Fête de la Rustine", and in November, we hold our second "made in MolemBIKE" second-hand bike fair!
To be continued...