Dynamo is Bologna’s ‘bike station’, run by the members of the Salvaiciclisti (Save the Cyclists) association. It is based in a large, beautiful space underneath the grand 19th century staircase leading to the Montagnola park, and next to the ruins of the 14th-century Castello di Galliera. Complete with an indoor bike park, a bike repair shop, bike renting service, an exhibition space, a bar with a terrace and even a space for film screenings, Dynamo is the place to go wether you’re a bike lover or not. I spoke to Simona Larghetti, president of the association and project manager of Dynamo, to find out how a safe cycling movement developed into a place dedicated to Bologna’s bike culture.
What’s the story behind Dynamo?
We started out in 2012 as a movement called Salvaiciclisti, which is a movement born from the Cities Fit For Cycling campaign in London. We participated in this same campaign in Bologna, to draw public debate towards the subject of safety and the right to ride bicycles without having an accident.
We started with events, flash mobs, press releases… and we managed to get people interested. We organised a big meeting in Bologna for all the campaigns in other cities in Italy, and we created a game called Bici Senza Frontiere, which helped the movement grow and get even more people involved. It was an amazing experience, to the point that I left my job so I could dedicate myself fully to the cause. We were also involved in a thing called Consulta Comunale della Bicicletta (Municipal Cycling Committee), and the big problem that kept coming up was the lack of a secure bike park near the station. We realised we needed a place where we could continue our activities, and that could also provide a safe place for people to keep their bikes.
How did you manage to find such a perfect space for Dynamo?
It was very difficult to find the right place, we needed somewhere that was big enough, at ground level to bring bikes in easily, we wanted to have bar as well… After six months of searching we still hadn’t found anywhere and thought it would be impossible. Then the Bologna city council started a project called Incredibol, which helps start-up companies involved in social innovation to find a space, without charging for rent for the first four years. This was very important because it meant that we would be able to offer our services at a low price (it costs €2 to park for 24h), and we wanted to offer the bike park as a public service run by paid employees, not volunteers, so that it would be constant, secure and reliable.
When the city council told us that this place was available we couldn’t believe it, it was like a dream! Close to the train station and the bus station, it was perfect. Our project was selected and in June 2015 we received the space. We founded the Dynamo cooperative alongside Salvaiciclisti, because we didn’t like the idea of charging for services as an association.
What are your objectives?
- To make the bike park a well known service. At first, the people we had in mind were those who parked their bikes outside the station at the risk of them being stolen, but we discovered that our clients were actually people who previously didn’t use bikes, purely because they were afraid of being robbed. So the bike park is actually also useful for having more people on bikes.
2. To stay open and offer all our services all year round. We are already open all year, but the bar doesn’t have heating yet, so in winter it’s only open at the weekend. It’s important for us because it creates a social environment.
3. To spread cycling culture and its practicality. We want people to be confident, so bikes can be used more and better. We offer basic mechanical courses once a week to teach people how to repair their bike, but it would be good to have them every day.
4. To expand towards other issues to do with the kind of lifestyle that we promote. We host other associations and their events. For example, the Leila association has a project called ‘the object library’, which provides a renting service for objects that you only need occasionally, like a drill, or a tent for a trip…
Why are independent initiatives important?
Dynamo was born as a work cooperative, the objective of which is to provide work positions for our members. This can only happen if the work environment is open to people’s suggestions. Employees must have the possibility to express themselves in order to positively contribute to the company. In a chain, all the processes are standardised, which can also be useful for making it easy to work – in some areas. But individual initiatives shouldn’t be ignored, and operating as an independent business allows workers to carry out their own ideas. In this sense, independence is important for the development of new services, because there are things that can only be understood through working closely with people. We created services because people requested them.
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Photography by Erwann Steglich-Petersen