The Ubele Initiative is a social enterprise with a mission to contribute to the sustainability of the African Diaspora community in the UK. They support organisations across the UK and internationally to develop solutions for the social, economic and political issues affecting the African Diaspora community.
The Ubele Initiative’s Wise Women on Wheels project runs sessions on cycle skills, road safety, bike maintenance and health and wellbeing for black and ethnic minority women over the age of 45. Haringey, where the project is based, has a large percentage of health issues that disproportionately affect socially disadvantaged groups, particularly women. The project aims not only to improve women’s cycling confidence, but to provide advice about health and wellbeing, and the benefits that cycling can bring. Most participants have never cycled before and have health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes.
The project is based at Lordship Recreation Ground, and is delivered in partnership with Rockstone Community Foundation, who provide cycling instruction and bike maintenance. The project runs several 10-week courses, with weekly sessions involving one and a half hours’ cycling activities and 30 minutes of nutrition, health and wellbeing discussions and advice.
The project makes use of Lordship Recreation Ground’s Model Traffic Area – a small network of miniature roads and pathways where residents can practice their cycling skills as if they are on the road. Participants learn about hand signalling, manoeuvring, primary and secondary positioning, and bike maintenance. Participants’ health is reviewed over the course of the project through checks on BMI and blood pressure – this way the women can see for themselves the health benefits that cycling can bring.
The funding from Cycling Grants London has enabled the project to purchase bikes and other cycling equipment for the women to use during sessions, and to pay two qualified cycling instructors of Carribbean background to lead the sessions. The project aims to reach those who would not normally cycle, and the fact that it can now provide bikes for participants to use during sessions has been a big factor in its success at attracting first-time cyclists.
“Being part of the project decreased my isolation in the neighbourhood, as the activities are often an excuse to be in a group and get out of the house” – Beverley, project participant
“The activities helped me to feel more confident, physically and psychologically. It’s very rewarding to learn to ride at 60 and in such a brief amount of time. I always feel supported and encouraged to improve my skills.” - project participant
The women who took part in the project this year aim to become a self-sustaining group, with some of the cyclists from the project organising their own cycle rides and outings. After all of the 10 week programmes are finished, Wise Women on Wheels is planning to organise a cycling weekend to celebrate the amazing achievements of the project’s participants.