Interview: Inside Siempre Bicycle Cafe in Partick

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Cycling is becoming increasingly popular. It’s better for the environment, healthy, less stressful than being stuck in traffic jams, and parking is usually free and widely available. Appealing to the rising numbers of Glasgow cyclists, Siempre Bicycle Café opened its doors on Dumbarton Road in 2012. It is a bike shop, bar, and coffee shop rolled into one space, an airy room with purple paint on some of its walls and the exposed bricks of the building on others, matching purple sofas, and rustic wooden benches, which all gives the place a quirky character.

There is a bar selling Scottish beers in a separate room behind the café, and a garden out the back with a colourful mural dedicated to cycling (announcing, “Ride it like you stole it”) and pink bike wheels mounted on the fence.

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Siempre is owned by Callan Dickson, an avid cyclist, who says he got the idea for a bicycle café when he visited London.

“There was nothing like this in Glasgow,” he explained. “And I thought there should be something here.”

You can get a puncture repaired or brakes adjusted while you have coffee or lunch, or book your bike in for bigger repairs, up to full restoration of vintage bikes.

They also sell bikes, tools, and clothing. “But it’s not just for bike people,” Dickson hastens to add. “There are people who come in for the friendly atmosphere and the food, or come in to work.” The cafe have free WiFi, and I see a number of people tapping away at laptops when we visited.

From the painted walls to the rustic-looking wooden benches, the décor is full of character. I asked Dickson what inspired him to design the café this way. He replied, “We have no money, so we are creative.” The tables and benches are, in fact, old scaffolding, since Dickson knew a scaffolder. It isn’t just the benches: the whole place has been something of a community project. The painting, the murals, and the entire garden all have been done by locals or people Dickson knows, often in exchange for food, coffee, or beer.

“The garden was a rubbish tip when we took over,” Dickson said. They put out an appeal on social media and around Partick, and people came to clean it up, lay down top soil, paint, and plant trees. “It’s amazing, seeing perfect strangers showing up and helping out,” Dickson reflected.

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He makes Siempre available to the community as more than a bike shop and café: you can hire it out for events. They’ve had weddings, Green Party fundraisers, acoustic music, a women’s cycling event where the speaker gave a talk about cycling from Texas to the Canadian border, and there is even a cheese night.

When I asked how he sees Siempre developing in the future, Dickson expounded on the apple trees in the back garden, which the café uses in its own desserts. He envisions planting an herb garden and basic veg, the idea that the café could be as self-sustaining as possible. They already use local suppliers and producers for their food and coffee.

At a time when isolation and hostility seem to be taking over politics, a local business like this one, which brings the community together under the ethos of sustainability and regeneration, is taking significant steps in a more hopeful direction.

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