Sustrans are a UK charity who aim to make cycling easier and more accessible to everyone. They have experience in delivering inclusive cycling projects and training all across London.
Through Cycling Grants London they have launched the Barking Riverside Cycling Club, which offers Bikeability training and social bike clubs to people in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham. The aim of the Barking Riverside Cycling Club is to increase social cohesion by forming social bike clubs within two separate estates – Barking, and Riverside and Thames View.
The club starts with 8-week Bikeability and Learn to Ride courses, which are open to 12 beginners who do not have access to a bike. The clubs will then take place in the streets and at local school playgrounds with basic bike maintenance included in the sessions. The bikes, helmets and locks are provided by Sustrans, and made available on a free loan as part of the on-going club. The group has also offered to sell the equipment to participants at a subsidised rate of £60 once they have completed the course. In addition to the standard bikes, the club also has an e-bike which can be used for any elderly participants.
Barking and Dagenham is a diverse borough with high levels of social change and immigration; making methods of social integration a challenge. The target group for this project is BAME parents who speak English as a second language, low income White British adults and 60+ adults; with the intention of encouraging positive social interaction between each of these diverse groups.
The project leader describes the best part of the project as being “the moment you can see the participants suddenly realising that they can do it; their backs are straight, arms are relaxed and they are confident they will not fall off. It’s amazing to give people this sense of self-esteem and a confidence boost, not only in cycling, but in other parts of their lives as well”.
In order to maintain the social club, Cycle Champions will be trained on completion of the courses. It will be their responsibility to organise group rides for the ongoing Barking Riverside Cycling Club. Additionally, female participants who show an interest in this role will be encouraged to attend the British Cycling Breeze programme to develop their ride leader skills.
When asked what advice they would give to other cycling projects, the project stressed the importance of maintaining the balance between a sociable/informal atmosphere, as well as the seriousness of the sessions – this is what will keep people coming back every week.
They also recommended being practical in ensuring that bikes fit participants properly, making sure they are sitting in the correct position and that proper instruction is given etc. Their final piece of advice is to make use of WhatsApp! They have found WhatsApp to be an incredibly useful tool in organising sessions and rides, and for participants to get to know one another.
Simon Wasser, Project Lead, Sustrans said: "This grant has been a fantastic opportunity to work with a diverse range of women and provide inclusive training to increase confidence and build a long-term love of cycling among the parent community in Barking and Dagenham".
Leila, course participant: "I wouldn't be cycling if it wasn't for this course. It's increased my confidence a lot".