Dublin bike shop owner Paul McQuaid has repaired 750 old bikes – and then passed them on to people forced to flee war-torn nation
Hundreds of Dubliners have responded to an appeal for bicycles for Ukrainian refugees living in Ireland.
Paul McQuaid, owner of River Cycles at Usher’s Island, beside James Joyce Bridge, said his shop had reconditioned and passed on more than 750 bikes since he launched the initiative in March.
He told Independent.ie he had been “working round the clock” due to an overwhelming response to the appeal.
“The public reaction has been amazing and I am thankful for all the support,” he said. “Between collecting bikes, repairing them and organising deliveries all over the country, I have been in here seven days a week for the past five months.
“It has been non-stop and the list of things I have to do each day is endless.”
Mr McQuaid, who has been in business for over 40 years, says he is not surprised by people’s generosity – and revealed that he received 150 bikes from Ballymun garda station.
“These were stolen bikes that were never claimed by their owners and I am hoping garda stations all over the country will consider doing the same,” he said.
“I know there are hundreds of thousands of bikes in sheds and garages just deteriorating, so my aim is to put them to good use – it’s the very definition of a no-brainer.”
Mr McQuaid is looking for used bikes in “reasonable, fixable condition” and said he prefers “dust to rust”.
He said the voluntary work of Jerry Case, an American cycling enthusiast who helps carry out bike repairs, had been “absolutely invaluable”. He also thanked couriers DPD for offering to transport a number of refurbished bikes to Ukrainians all around the country.
“There are bicycles being delivered every day to hotels in remote locations like the Burren,” he said. “Ukrainians have been sending me messages to say how much having a bike has changed their lives.
“It’s good for their mental health to be able to get out on a bike for a few hours – a bicycle is no small thing.”
One Ukrainian mother received bikes through the scheme after it emerged she faced a 6km walk to school with her son each day. In an email, she thanked River Cycles for “helping us during such a tough period of our lives”.
Mr McQuaid stressed that despite the success of the initiative so far, his appeal for unwanted bikes is ongoing.
“You have to bear in mind there are now 40,000 Ukrainians living here,” he added. “Word of what we are doing has got out so we are getting requests for bikes from all over Ireland.
“We are looking for donations of ladies’ bikes in particular.”
Mr McQuaid previously made headlines when he offered free bicycle repairs to frontline workers during the pandemic.
Earlier this year, he was also in the news when his electric cargo bike, worth €6,500, was stolen from the courtyard of his Portobello home. It was later recovered by gardaí in Kilmainham.