May 9, 2022

East London charity celebrates 7000th book bike delivery


The East London borough of Barking & Dagenham – most of which has been covered by Emdad on his bike (Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

A charity offering books to deprived households in several East London boroughs has this week celebrated its 7000th drop-off—and they’ve all been delivered by bicycle.

BookBike was established by Emdad Rahman in early 2020 with the aim of bringing books, by bike, to struggling families in his home neighbourhood of Barking & Dagenham—but the scheme quickly expanded to Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham and Redbridge when the pandemic began to bite.

With the help of Barking Learning Centre, and the East End Covid Support Network, he also began to distribute food parcels, clothes and medicine to those in need. His efforts ensured that families in some of the areas hardest hit by Covid-19 could survive in the short -term—and slowly begin to recover.

Speaking with the Barking & Dagenham Post last year, Emdad said:

“Up until [the pandemic] I had been sharing books with care homes, schools and individuals, but all of a sudden we had the whole nation on lockdown and this bought people’s emotional and mental health instabilities to the fore … I found pockets within Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Hackney where several people were suffering greatly as a result of isolation and lack of human contact.”

By the end of 2020, Rahman’s scheme had snowballed, receiving national attention. He was even inducted into The FA’s 23-person squad of Lionhearts, “who have gone above and beyond during this challenging time for the nation”—a line-up which also included Sir Captain Tom Moore.

On reaching his latest milestone of 7000 books delivered, Rahman described himself as “grateful”:

“…to family, friends, colleagues and the media. Your support has been phenomenal in making this humble project so successful… Even today a random gentleman from Essex named Dave dropped me a cycle helmet at my sponsor East End Cycles, and I have not spent a penny on books, cycles, food parcels etc.”

It’s yet another example of people going above and beyond for their communities, with books at the heart of the project—which is, as Emdad says, “by the people, for the people.”



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.