Children naturally grab lots of attention. They’re new, they’re noisy, and they usually have a parent or parents with money to spend on them. Consequently, we hear a lot about getting children on bikes, and rightly so, for they will ideally have many years of cycling ahead of them. But with an aging population – there are now more over-60s than under-16s, fact fans – a huge chunk of the population is in danger of being overlooked.
Now, thanks to the London Cycle Campaign, the older potential cyclist is being catered for through the Agewell on Wheels initiative. Run by Gwen Cook, AOW was funded in 2008 by London Cycle Campaign.
The LCC’s Lucy Cooper explains the project’s genesis: “Gwen recognised that cycling is a great solution to get older people active as well as being a convenient way to get about. She was aware, however, that many people she met of a similar generation lacked confidence and overestimated the barriers to cycling. As a result, Gwen set up The Agewell on Wheels pilot project in Hammersmith and Fulham to respond to these barriers.
“The project was a huge success with all participants reporting that they felt improvements in confidence, balance, strength in their legs and coordination by the end of their course. LCC considered this success a good reason to expand the project to other boroughs across London.”
And expand the project it did, rolling out three sets of courses in Camden and then Westminster. “Again there was a really positive response and participants begun to get involved in London Cycle Campaign local group led rides,” explains Cooper.
The courses have gone from strength-to-strength and have been expanded for 2011. Now available to 12 boroughs across London and featuring even more led rides to engage communities with cycling, LCC will be utilising wide reaching marketing to get the message to more people than ever.
Bike Hub cash has been essential for the unique project’s development, Cooper says. “It has been integral for the courses to evolve. Without this support LCC would not have been able to get the match funding from the councils for training. The funding has also enabled LCC to provide bikes for the participants that did not have access.”
The courses provide intensive support to combat barriers to cycling. Advice is given on buying bikes and how to use the cycle hire scheme (more on that later), free DR bikes if they already have a bike, route planning information, an introduction to their local cycling community through led rides and free LCC membership.
The London Cycle Campaign markets the courses in libraries, GP surgeries, community centres, leisure centres and transport hubs. Promotion also takes place online through blogs, websites and newsletters, as well as local newspapers. Certain charities and potential partners will be asked to promote the courses, including the likes of the British Heart Foundation and sustainable charities like the Energy Saving Trust.
Local groups will also be contacted to promote courses and councils will be asked to promote the courses via their networks and publications. Cooper added:
“The marketing for the 2009 courses attracted much older groups. This year we plan to try and broaden our audience by putting a series of courses at the weekend targeting people that are working.
“We have had participants up to the age of 80, but the majority of them have been in their mid-60s.”
Agewell on Wheels has made use of London’s Cycle Hire scheme: “For those that do not have bikes and will not be able to buy them due to financial restrictions or lack of storage, cycle hire is perfect. We have added a led ride which teaches participants how to use the cycle hire scheme and have even included a cycle hire key in their final pack.”
“Agewell on Wheels is a great template which would be easy to roll out across the UK. We hope to see it continue to grow.”
Agewell on Wheels will take place across four locations this year:
1 Linford Christie Stadium, Hammersmith, Greater London W12 0
2 Castlehaven Community Centre, 21 Castlehaven Road, NW1 8RU
3 Dulwich Park, Dulwich SE21 7BQ
4 Gunnersbury Park, W5 4ND
May 11th, May 18th, May 25th, June 1st, June 8th
June 11th, June 18th, June 25th,
July 2nd, July 9th
July 28th, August 4th, August 11th,
August 18th, August 25th