Clapton Common Boys Club was set up as a foundation for recreation for young boys of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Hackney, often from large families. They serve around 300 boys, offering participation in extra-curricular activities and opportunities to develop their talents and interests.
These young people attend independent schools which focus on intense learning, leaving little time to exercise during school hours. Cultural requirements affect their ability to participate in mainstream or unsupervised after school activities. Cycle to Safety aims to encourage participants to begin cycling with confidence and to engrain new cycling habits into their lives in a safe and culturally appropriate setting.
The project offers supervised cycling training sessions from experienced cycling instructors to children aged five to thirteen. Sessions cover cycle confidence and some key maintenance skills. The activities teach children to control and master their bike around quieter streets in the borough, with the aim of learning how to cycle in traffic on short journeys, such as the trip to school, the local shop or the park. Health professionals and cyclists also share their knowledge about the benefits of cycling in order to build awareness of the physical effects to the human body.
The project has been successful in engaging the community. Trust and security are among the most important values for children’s families, and the programme ensures this is valued through the use of older volunteers and security guards where necessary. This also ensures that participants feel safe and confident whilst taking part in activities.
Participants have responded very well to the project. The project has resulted in more children owning bikes and using them outside of the organised sessions with friends. It has had wider wellbeing benefits also, demonstrating how youth club sessions can foster a positive approach to life, help attendees overcome shyness, and increase their self-esteem. One participant, who was reluctant and nervous at the outset of the project, is now more socially active, with increased self-confidence.
Cycle to Safety hopes to build up a larger group of regular cyclists, to make the project available to even more young people within the community. The sustainability of the project is supported over the long term by participant involvement - in years two and three, previous users will support new participants and share their knowledge and experience.