The UK’s first ‘Real Yellow Jerseys’ have been awarded to everyday heroes of cycling.
Ten jerseys, handknitted in Tour de France yellow, have been presented to people who’ve used cycling to change their lives and inspire more of us to ride our bikes.
Jenny Box, head of behaviour change in England, said: “We wanted to celebrate all those amazing people across the country who are getting back on their bikes, changing their lives and helping others to do the same.
“They’re the real heroes of cycling whose skills, commitment and personal journeys are helping the nation reap the benefits of two wheels. The Real Yellow Jersey is also a symbol of everything that’s to be celebrated about everyday cycling and encouragement for more people to get in the saddle.”
Martin Williams, 45, from Birmingham, was living on the streets, addicted to drugs and suffering from anxiety and depression before cycling helped him turn his life around. He took part in Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival scheme which aims to help people overcome the barriers stopping them from cycling, such as a lack of skills, financial hardship, disability, cultural background or health issues.
Williams has learnt cycle mechanic skills and now teaches others. He’s in accommodation and has been clean for the past 18 months and through his volunteering work feels like he now has purpose, motivation and a positive outlook for his future. He said: “Cycling has transformed my life, really helping my mental health, but this yellow jersey is the icing on the cake. I’ve never won anything before.”
Joy Anibaba, 55, from the West Midlands only learnt to ride in her 50s and has since become a ride leader inspiring and empowering other women to cycle more. She said: “It’s wonderful to be honoured in this way. I’m proof that if I can do it, anyone can. I never thought I’d get a yellow jersey, especially one so warm and beautiful!”
Declan Nangle, who’s ten and from Kidderminster, didn’t think he’d ever be able to ride a bike because he suffers from dyspraxia, a developmental disorder that makes coordination and balance difficult. He’s now cycling every weekend after being given a bike for his tenth birthday and learning to ride through the Big Bike Revival.
He said: “When I first started riding a bike I was a bit scared about crashing, but that’s something I don’t have to worry about now. You learn to overcome your fear.”
Cycling UK’s Real Yellow Jersey recognises that cycling isn’t just about sport; it’s an everyday activity for leisure, transport and health, and part of a solution to many of society’s biggest problems from climate change and air pollution to obesity and mental health issues. Each ‘jersey knit’ garment took eight hours to complete.
Chris Boardman, policy advisor for British Cycling, added: “The Real Yellow Jersey for the everyday heroes of cycling really shines a light on how cycling can turn lives around, improving health, fitness and wellbeing and I applaud all the recipients for their achievements.”
More than 70% of the UK population admit they never cycle even though the benefits are well-documented. People who cycle regularly in mid-adulthood typically enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to someone ten years younger and their life expectancy is two years above the average.
Meanwhile, the NHS is spending more than £6 billion a year on obesity-related illness; transport accounts for 33% of carbon emissions in the UK and drivers are losing £7.9 billion every year because of traffic congestion. Meanwhile, 57% of car journeys in Great Britain are under five miles, which Cycling UK says could be cycled.