The UK’s industry levy Bike Hub is a virtually unique undertaking around the globe, where Britain’s bike trade has proven it is willing to invest in the its own, and cycling’s, future.
Alongside funding for things like Bikeability cycle training, Bike Hub put together a New Ideas Fund in 2009, dishing cash out to schemes aimed at bringing diverse demographics into cycling.
One of those projects was Agewell on Wheels, run by the London Cycle Campaign (LCC). The scheme is aimed at the over-50s, helping and encouraging them to get back on their bikes. In a period when over-60s outnumber under-16s, the project has been a timely one.
Now the project has been helping older people gain the confidence and breakdown the (overestimated) barriers to get cycling for almost four years, so what has it achieved? Will we see the initiative grow outside London and what’s next for the worthy project? BikeBiz speaks to the LCC’s Lucy Cooper to find out...
Have there been any key findings or lessons learned by Agewell on Wheels over the past few years?
Agewell on Wheels has been a real success for LCC. We have expanded it from one borough to ten in just three years. It’s been great to be able to offer the training to a much larger audience. We have learnt that the project needs to be run from within the community making it manageable at this size.
What areas is the project currently running in? Has it grown outside London?
Last summer the project ran in ten boroughs across North, West, and South London. We have had enquiries from outside of London as to how the project works and have given advice, but I’m not sure if the projects up are and running yet.
What stage is the project at, at the moment?
We are speaking to a social enterprise in Southwark to look at taking on the project within the community with the direction of LCC. This will be a pilot scheme that can then be expanded across their contacts and hopefully beyond.
And where would you like to take the project next?
It would be great to see Agewell courses roll out continuously throughout the duration of the summer, not just in sets. This would mean they would market themselves through word of mouth in the communities and become easier to join.
Have course participants stuck with cycling after they’ve left the project?
The London Cycle Campaign has seen a number of Agewell participants join our local group rides and take part in LCC activities. Many of the participants have signed up as members and are making use of the discounts.
MARGOT: “MY FEARS PUT AT EASE BY AGEWELL COURSES.”
At the end of last year the London Cycle Campaign interviewed course participants to see how Agewell on Wheels had changed their outlook on cycling.
One 70 year old, Margot, rode her first bike in the ‘70s in Southampton, where she rode with “no fear of traffic as it was not as heavy as London roads”. She rode on an almost daily basis in local rural areas for short trips. However, in the ‘80s Margot returned to London and gave up cycling for public transport, fearing riding around the capital’s London busy and congested roads.
Putting aside her worries, she bought a bike in 2005 from a local Edwards cycle shop. After picking up a puncture she sought out a local bike mechanic in Southwark, during which she found an article by Barry Mason. After meeting the man herself, she was enthused to cycle short journeys more regularly – at least three times a week.
Margot went on to attend one of the Agewell courses. The LCC said: “Margot found it very useful to see some of the other riders struggling on some of the course, particularly with turning right drills as it made her realise that it wasn’t only her who was having difficulty with this. This helped her confidence and she now has overcome this fear of turning right across the oncoming lane of traffic.
“As a woman with no experience of driving motor vehicles she said the instructors proved invaluable in teaching her the correct road placing and how to hold the dominant position when needed, as well as how to safely interact with traffic. One of the most important things Margot took away from the course was the importance of understanding how to secure a bicycle in public with the locks that she had bought.”
Margot now regularly cycles to her part-time job and is planning to sign up to a bike maintenance course. She said that part of her challenge is to continue to plan routes more in the future for herself, so she could be completely independent on London’s roads.