A vital supporting role

There are more than 100 local member groups across the country
Cycling UK head of volunteering Alex Cuppleditch explains how volunteers and groups are the foundations that this organisation is built on, and how your membership is a huge contributor to supporting them

As a Cycling UK member, one of the many perks you receive is access to group rides and other events organised by more than 100 local groups across the country. Members can ride with any of our local member groups, and non-members can usually try out riding with a group before deciding to join.

While our members enjoy benefits such as third-party insurance cover and legal help whoever they are riding with, for many, the most rewarding aspect of being part of Cycling UK is the camaraderie of cycling with like-minded people. When riders in the Lincolnshire member group were asked what membership meant to them, these were the responses that kept coming: “The friendship and comradeship in cycling” said one; other responses included “Pleasant and interesting rides in good company” and “A fun and free way to keep fit”.

The groups themselves benefit too, with assistance in training, organisers’ liability insurance, and a financial contribution each year which groups could use to pay for meeting rooms, further training or even just put towards a members’ Christmas lunch. As one group leader puts it: “We don’t have to deal with all the admin of managing things like membership renewals and ride organiser insurance for ourselves: we can do more riding and less admin by being part of Cycling UK”.

We don’t have to deal with all the admin of managing things like membership renewals and ride organiser insurance for ourselves: we can do more riding and less admin by being part of Cycling UK

Local group organiser

Our  work in encouraging people from all backgrounds to cycle is also welcomed by member groups, as another group organiser says: “In recent years, there has been a positive, concerted effort by Cycling UK to include images showing people of black, Asian and minority ethnic groups. As a member group in a not very diverse area, it is helpful that Cycle magazine visually represents people of all colours and backgrounds – the magazine is doing a job that is difficult for us to do.”

Keeping these groups running, and organising the events that make them worthwhile, is a large network of volunteers, supported by Cycling UK’s volunteer team. The volunteer team support volunteer-led competitions and projects, help with the day-to-day running of groups and devise communications projects to promote, encourage and reward our network.

These include:

  • Strategic volunteering (eg advisory boards, trustees)
  • Professional volunteering (eg volunteer photographers)
  • Project volunteering (eg British Cycle Quest, development projects)
  • Micro-volunteering (smaller task-based actions, eg Pumped up Crew)
  • Group volunteering (eg committee roles, rides leaders)
  • Campaign volunteering (eg local campaigners)
  • Corporate volunteering (eg Bikeability)

Ultimately our membership funds the entire volunteering department and though we are a mere team of four, we support thousands of volunteers around the country.

We have also launched groups engagement webinars (“Time with Tom”), designed to enable a more holistic approach to engagement within our groups. Through these, we can deliver update messages, training and information sessions and an open platform for volunteers to contribute. These were initially to replace the planned roadshows for this year. However, they have been well received so we are looking to put a plan for these to continue; the roadshows have obviously been put on hold for the foreseeable future but we hope to see them back in 2021/2022.

Meanwhile, we have also reviewed, updated and redesigned our groups policies, guidance and toolkits. These include the volunteer handbook, groups handbook, risk assessment, GDPR guidance and FAQ, incident processes and safeguarding. We have also launched our volunteer engagement tool, Assemble, which is where you can obtain all these resources noted.

Our focus has been on changing processes to add simplicity and ease to the day to day running of volunteer and groups activity. We have recently changed the financial year so it will align with a standard tax year, and created a new option for the annual return process that will save groups time in the long run; again this makes everything much smoother. Full details regarding AGMs will be sent directly to groups at the end of August. On that note we would love to hear your feedback if there are any other key groups processes we could review to make it even easier, please do get in touch.

Also vital to our goal to get a million more people on their bikes is creating and delivering on a diversity plan to encourage and motivate people from underrepresented groups to get cycling and volunteering. This also includes looking at our own organisation policy, process and recruitment, alongside our volunteering communications plan to highlight and celebrate a variety of religious holidays and key dates throughout the year.

Another initiative we have rolled out is micro-volunteering: this was to target a younger demographic who can accomplish small tasks online. This has been well received and adopted by people of all ages; we now have more than 100 micro-volunteers undertaking small but useful key actions. If you are interested in becoming a micro-volunteer please apply here.

And let’s not forget all the exciting challenges and competition that are managed by the team: British Cycle Quest (basically geocaching by bike), the LEJOG End to End (the ‘big daddy’ of cycling challenges), the Challenge Ride series (supporting local challenges) and the wonderful Cape Wrath Fellowship (epic northern adventure).  

In my opinion volunteers and groups are the most important part of the organisation. They are the individuals who are on the ground encouraging people to get riding, providing welcoming and open spaces for people from all walks of life to cycle. As part of your membership you are contributing to supporting, funding and rewarding our magnificent volunteer network: people who are constantly going the extra mile for cycling.

If you have any comments or questions on groups or volunteering, please get in touch: haveyoursay@cyclinguk.org