A cycling group running confidence-building rides for the local community at Walsall Arboretum has been put on hold, following the theft of all eleven of the group’s newly-purchased bicycles.
The Walsall Arboretum Community Cycle Club, a group affiliated to Cycling UK, was started in September this year as part of the Big Bike Revival, with the support of Walsall Council who secured over £3000 in funding through Sport England to purchase bicycles. The participants, many of them elderly, have rediscovered the health and social benefits of regular cycling, in an area where bicycle ownership is very low.
Lesley Easter, Cycling UK’s Cycling Development Officer for the West Midlands, said: “We had our first meeting when the bikes were delivered on 26 September and we’ve seen continuous high participation. The group is made up mostly of bright and brilliant senior citizens, most of them ladies, including Joan, the eldest at 85 years old.
“The bicycles were brand new, and chosen specifically for new or unconfident cyclists. It is an upsetting crime, and deeply frustrating for everyone.”
Surinder has been a member of the group since its second session, after deciding to get on a bike for the very first time aged 71.
She said: “When I saw the group I knew this was something I finally wanted to learn, now that I’m retired and don’t have to devote all my time to my family. I’m quite active for my age, still out walking and jogging.
“When I found out what had happened to the bikes I was devastated. We ended up just learning about mechanics this week. I just want things to be back to normal.”
Tina Eglington, 48, used the sessions to boost her shaky confidence on two wheels and give her a new focus in life.
“I’m a full-time carer for my son who has mental disabilities, so this group has been a wonderful stress reliever during the little free time I have.
“I’ve loved it, I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s changed my life. It’s become a real little community, with no judgement as we’re all in the same boat.
“When I heard about what happened I wanted to cry. Where can I learn now?”
The theft occurred overnight between Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 November, after a locked compound at the Arboretum was broken into. Anyone with any potential information about the incident should contact 101, quoting crime reference number 20WS/244838R/17.