People in their 50’s and older are under-represented in cycling, with many having neither learnt how to ride a bike nor ridden since their youth. In Westminster there exists the largest gap in England for male life-expectancy between the most and least deprived of the population, and the fourth largest for women. Westminster also has a higher prevalence of mental health problems amongst older people compared to London and national averages.
Cycle Smarter, as funded by TfL’s Cycling Grants London, provides specially designed, low cost beginner cycling courses for older people in their local area (within Westminster) to address these issues. Therefore, improving the community’s physical, mental and social health, as well as providing participants with a sense of personal achievement, independence, and a reduced carbon footprint!
Paddington Recreation Ground in Maida Vale hosts the Cycling Smarter courses, which is in close proximity to four out of the five Westminster Wards containing half of the residents classed as deprived. Each year Cycle Smarter delivers three courses with sessions in the morning and afternoon throughout the summer months of March/April to September, when cycling is preferred due to weather. Tea/coffee and a snack are provided for riders to encourage ongoing attendance, and participants are asked to donate £1 as a contribution to bike maintenance.
The courses last for six weeks with six places per course. Upon completion the Project Coordinator will call participants for feedback and encourage them to continue riding in their follow-on social Cycle Smarter class, led by a trained volunteer.
At the end of the three years, they hope to have created a self-sufficient group led by skilled volunteers, using equipment bought through the project. They will encourage participants to cycle in group social rides, and provide a platform for members to keep developing their skills in a semi-structured, safe, and social environment with like-minded peers.
On asked to give advice for other projects, Cycle Smarter said to propose prior planning. You need at least six months before to get everything in place, but each year it gets easier.
“The funding provided from Cycling Grants has allowed us to fulfil our long term aim of offering specialised beginner cycling courses for those aged 50+ in Westminster. Many of the ‘Cycle Smarter’ participants have always dreamt of being able to ride a bike and they feel extremely lucky that they are able to accomplish this goal after many years!’’- Programme Leader
“This is my third time down now. But everybody just loves the tutors” – Participant
“It’s amazing how quickly people pick things up” – Group Leader