Sustrans is a charity that works with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations to help people choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys.
Local People on Bikes is a ten-week practical cycle training course held on the Sheephouse Way Estate, an area with high levels of poverty and health inequality. Sustrans built up a relationship with one of the local primary schools to offer places on the course to low income residents on the estate. This provided them with a free, safe and supportive space where they could learn to ride with people they knew, and helped give them the confidence to support their own children in learning to ride a bike.
The project ran 4 days of intensive training, including bike maintenance sessions, during the Easter holidays, followed by 3-hour cycle sessions every two weeks from April to September. The training programme included route planning, bike maintenance and training for cycling with children. The funding from Cycling Grants London allowed the project to pay for qualified cycling instructors to give participants tailored support. It also allowed the project to give participants the opportunity to buy bikes at subsidised prices, so they could continue to cycle in their everyday lives once the programme had ended.
Maldon Manor is an isolated neighbourhood in which there are few public spaces to socialise. For participants the project’s activities were the ideal occasion to bond with their neighbours – and now many of them meet regularly outside the project for bike rides and other activities.
“I have never cycled before and after 6 weeks I felt more confident with traffic and routes. By cycling I discovered new places I didn’t know about, despite living here for 20 years!” – Anne, project participant
“At the beginning you think you can’t do it, but once you start to practice you realise you can!” – project participant
A key part of the project’s success was the way it built strong relationships with the groups taking part, to better understand the barriers to cycling they faced. At the end of every ride session, there were discussion meetings to help participants think about their streets, how they travel and how the space is organised in Maldon Manor.
The project aims to make a lasting difference in the area, enabling residents to continue cycling in the long term. Sustrans has funding to continue working in Sheephouse Way until September 2018 as part of the Local People project. Staff will be available to continue to support residents with information and advice, and give them the chance to take part in activities which focus on place-making and walking and cycling infrastructure. This will help to ensure cycling continues in the area and becomes part of the landscape in Sheephouse Way.