Lillian Gerber, the beginnings of Community Outdoor Group in Waltham Forest
The idea for COG (Community Outdoor Group) was founded by a local police officer with a passion for cycling, who had been looking for alternative constructive and healthier ways to engage with the community. Partnering with a couple of local not-for-profits in the area and with the support of a local Councillor, the project became more than just an idea.
With inevitable challenges along the way, including finding safe storage, getting access to a range of bikes of various sizes and securing continued funding for sessions we persevered. Now nearly 3 years later, COG has grown from strength to strength having delivered a range of accessible cycling sessions and bike mechanic workshops for all ages and abilities. Our reach extends to delivering tailored sessions for schools and statutory services to spread the reach and impact of everything associated with cycling and mechanics.
More recently, COG has specialised in BMX, having helped bring back to life a neglected pump track in the borough. Weekly BMX sessions are now delivered at this track costing no more than a suggested donation of £2 a session which gives each rider access to all the necessary equipment and coaching.
We’ve watched young people who access these sessions grow in confidence as they master key skills in riding. This culminated in team COG having a group of young people confident enough to represent Waltham Forest in the London Youth Games in 2019, which was the first time the borough has been able to send a BMX team to the games. Despite our young people not having competition experience, we achieved various 1st and 2nd places in heat races. One of our young people even won a bronze medal and was shortlisted as Young Sportsperson of the Year at the borough’s sports awards.
With the continued support of WCGL, Waltham Forest Council & partners, we look forward to what 2020 has in store for project COG.
Testimonials from riders:
‘I joined COG in January of this year when the BMX team started and I have had an incredible time with the club since then. I’ve learned so much not only in BMX racing but also about coaching since I have started volunteering with the club. It has opened a door for me with coaching and I hope to do my coaching qualifications next year. I also hope to do more races next year in the London BMX series and south region.’ – young COG BMX rider
‘It is more than 50 years since my first attempt at riding a bike so I was very apprehensive. It was really nice to find a welcoming group of people who made me feel very comfortable & the instructor soon had me feeling very comfortable & confident on the bike’ – women’s COG cycling sessions