How our projects in Scotland are helping during the coronavirus crisis

Cycling UK continues to support the UK to cycle
This remains true during this difficult period with the ongoing threat of coronavirus Covid-19
Sam Waller's picture

How our projects in Scotland are helping during the coronavirus crisis

Our projects in Scotland have had to curtail their usual activities due to the coronavirus crisis. However, that hasn’t prevented them from making a difference. Our Head of Development for Scotland, Suzanne Forup, explains what we’ve been doing to help.

As the impact that the coronavirus pandemic would have on the UK became clear, things at Cycling UK moved very quickly. Of course, we cancelled all activities that could put our participants, staff or volunteers at risk. Our projects were closed and staff instructed to stay at home.

The swiftness of the action was as shocking as it was necessary. It was really hard to see plans, that were six months or a year in the making, cancelled in a few hours.

It was heart-breaking to have to close down our services, knowing how many people rely on them. But seeing the devastaing impact of coronavirus, it was clearly the only option.

For me, and I think for many of us, hearing personal stories from people working on the frontline really brought home the scale of this tragedy. The number of people who have died is still very difficult to fathom.

Seeing the terrible impact of the pandemic, our thoughts quickly turned to what we could do to help. Clearly, we couldn’t run our projects as normal, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t help in other ways.

Most of our projects across Scotland have a fleet of bikes, and we knew that many key workers were avoiding public transport. We therefore put in place plans to loan these bikes out for free to key workers, with helmets and accessories.

So far, we’ve loaned over 40 bikes to a whole range of key workers – from nurses to teachers and charity workers to pharmacy staff. We’ve been delighted to be able to provide people with what they need to get to work safely, and to take their daily exercise for a mental and physical boost.

One such person is Lidia, a carer from Musselburgh, who has loaned a bike from our Play Together on Pedals project. Having not cycled in ten years, Lidia borrowed an e-bike so she’d no longer have to take the bus to her job as a support worker at the Thistle Foundation.



Key worker Lidia with her loaned bike 'Peggy'

Lidia told us she is now enjoying the fresh air, birdsong and scenery on her half hour commute. She loves the bike so much she has named it Peggy, after Pegasus the flying horse! And she’s also using the bike to get out and explore her local area.

She said: "I need exercise to help with back pain, but I used to just come home from work and watch TV, I didn’t feel like doing any exercise. Now I can't wait to get on the bike and explore!

“Riding Peggy has given me my confidence back. She has changed my life!"

We’ve also been able to loan out some of our load-carrying bikes so they can be put to good use in the community. One of our cargo bikes is being used by the charity Bethany Christian Trust to make food bank deliveries in Edinburgh.



Councillor Emma Roddick on her loaned e-trike

In Inverness, our WheelNess project has loaned out an e-trike to local councillor Emma Roddick, enabling her to deliver vital goods to families who are self-isolating or in need. Of the deliveries of groceries, prescription medicines and creative boxes to families, Emma said:

““It’s been so positive, it’s the greatest part of the job. It’s lovely during a really high anxiety time to see people just trying to do what they can.

“The e-trike has just been amazing – I can get so much on it at once and I’m doing all these weekly shops for folk nearby.”

As well as loaning out the bikes we already had, we had the significant matter of the Big Bike Revival, our biggest project. Clearly, we couldn’t do our usual community-based activities to get more people cycling.

Luckily, our funders Transport Scotland were understanding and flexible – allowing us to consider how best to adapt the project to the current circumstances.

At the beginning of this month we launched the Big Bike Revival for Key Workers, offering free bike loans, repair and equipment at more than 80 locations across Scotland.

It has been a pleasure to work with independent bike shops, mechanics and other cycling centres to create this brilliant project. You may have seen us on STV News recently, with two student nurses who now feel safer travelling to work thanks to the loan of a bike.

We’ve also been able to loan out some of our specialised cycles from our Edinburgh All-Ability Bike Centre, so that our regular riders could keep cycling during lockdown.

The Martin family have loaned a tandem so that nine-year-old James, who is on the autistic spectrum and is non-verbal, can continue cycling with his family.

Elspeth, James’s mum, told us: “He stands in front of the garage door waiting for you to open it and get the bike out. He’s just so excited.

“The fact we can go from the house, he doesn’t have to go anywhere from the car, it’s there, it’s accessible; he is just absolutely in heaven.”



The Martin family cycling together thanks to a tandem loan

Stories like this remind us of the sheer joy that cycling brings to many people. It’s been a comfort in these tough times to see so many people out on their bikes, especially new and returning riders. Cycling flourishing and I’m proud that we’ve played our part in that.

I’d like to thank all our funders – Transport Scotland, the RS MacDonald Charitable Trust and Glasgow City Council to name a few – who have been understanding and reassuring during this difficult time. Their support has enabled us to do this vital work.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’d like to thank all our staff across Scotland, who have worked incredibly hard to make all of this happen. We are all working from home, fitting our work around caring and other responsibilities. To see what we have achieved, in such a short space of time, really makes me proud.

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