Barbara Kerr - Volunteer ride leader and Cycling UK Scotland committee member

Volunteer ride leader Barbara Kerr of Bicycle Belles Edinburgh
Barbara Kerr
Barbara Kerr

Barbara Kerr - Volunteer ride leader and Cycling UK Scotland committee member

Barbara fell into volunteering after her employer won a bid for funding to start a cycle hub. She is now a trained Bikeability instructor and a member of the Cycling UK Scotland Committtee. Here she describes her volunteering experiences.

Full name, occupation, area you live in and name of group or activity you support:

Barbara Kerr

Senior Administration Assistant (Day job - gets in the way of fun stuff).

Volunteer Ride Leader, Belles on Bikes Edinburgh,

Volunteer Cycling UK Scotland committee member

What made you decide to volunteer your skills with Cycling UK or a Cycling UK registered group?

I kind of fell into volunteering with Cycling UK’S Belles on Bikes project. I joined as a regular member in August 2013 - then my employer, who had won a bid for funding to start an onsite cycle hub, offered ride leader training to staff. I completed that through them in May 2015. I mentioned it to Claire (one of the Edinburgh Belles on Bikes leaders) and said I wouldn’t mind helping out if it was required, and before I knew it I was leading rides!

Following on from this Cycling UK supported me to train as a Bikeability instructor in October 2016. I joined Cycling UK, and became a member of the Cycling UK Scotland committee at the AGM in November 2017.

How much time are you able to commit?

Belles on Bikes is not too onerous. We lead one ride a month and have quarterly ride leader meetings. Reccying new routes and helping to plan events is optional, as we have a good bank of existing routes and only tend to do additional events if members of the group request specific things and we have time, or if we need funds to cover insurance/fees.

Which activity or activities do you support?

Leading rides and other events on an ad hoc basis for Belles on Bikes. We also have a Facebook page that we can all manage, and I help with that when I can or if there is something that I think our members would be interested in.

I am not sure what activities I will be helping with for the Cycling UK Scotland committee but I will soon find out at my first meeting this month.

I have also helped out with some women’s Learn then Ride sessions supported by Cycling UK in return for the training as a Bikeability instructor, and look forward to doing more of this in future.

What is the greatest challenge you have encountered?

Probably responding to requests that are outside the remit of our group. We advertise as an adult-only ladies’ group in Edinburgh, but occasionally get someone asking to bring a child, or occasionally someone will sign up for a ride that maybe isn’t suitable for their level of experience. We don’t want to put them off, but at the same time if it is a freezing winter’s day, we also don’t want to keep other riders waiting for them or go at too slow a pace. Those conversations can sometimes be difficult, but as leaders we are very supportive of each other and discuss these situations at our meetings so we know how to respond collectively going forward.

Describe a typical day in your volunteer role.

  • First thing is to check the weather forecast to make sure the ride can go ahead.
  • All our rides are organised through, so next I check this to see how many people we are expecting on the day’s ride, and normally post a wee note if there are any concerns about rain/wind/adverse circumstances which might affect the ride.
  • Get my bike out, check it over and make my way to the starting point to meet the ladies who will be riding with us. We’ll have a chat while we wait for everyone to show. At this point we also ask everyone to provide contact details and emergency contact, just in case of getting lost/accidents - touch wood, this has not been necessary on any of my led rides so far!
  • As ride leader we will do a pre-ride talk - a quick description of the route, and any risks we might encounter, and a brief explanation of our (very informal!) ride structure for any new riders.
  • Set off on the ride! In the Edinburgh group we have two leaders, one at the front to lead the way, and one at the back to make sure no one gets lost or left behind. Normally we will stop for coffee and cake or lunch half way through the ride, or at the end depending on the length of ride.
  • We try to start and finish at the same spot, so that people can find their way back home OK. Ride finished, we say our goodbyes and head off home, satisfied with a good ride in excellent company.

Of all the tasks you have helped with, what are you most proud of?

Enabling women to cycle who haven’t done it in a while, aren't too confident or who wouldn’t want to go out on their own, and seeing them increase in both confidence and ability.

What do you get out of the experience of volunteering?

The satisfaction of meeting new people and helping others get out on a bike. I have also picked up some great shortcuts and new routes to explore with friends. I also have to mention the support and inspiration I have received both from fellow ride leaders, and group members!

How has volunteering enhanced your passion for cycling and do you have the chance to get out more on your bike?

Seeing what other people are doing and being introduced to things like The Adventure Syndicate and other groups has inspired me to go on longer rides and the Belles (especially the other ride leaders) supported me to the point where I felt confident going on my first ever (solo) tour in July 2017! It was amazing and I will definitely be doing more of this...

Could you describe your volunteering experience in three words?

Confidence-boosting (hyphen means this counts as one word right?), inspiring, rewarding.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Cycling UK or its local groups supporting cycling?

If you enjoy cycling and socialising, I can’t think of a better way to help introduce others, and become part of a community than volunteering with a local group. I have met so many fantastic individuals through doing this, and that has not only made it a great experience, but also helped me to push myself more than I would have otherwise.

Find out more about becoming a volunteer

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