Cycle for Health

Improving health and wellbeing through targeted cycling support
What is Cycle for Health?

Cycle for Health is a a programme that provides a route into regular activity, building fitness and self-esteem.

Designed specifically for adults identified as having poor mental or physical health, the 12-week package of support develops skills and grows confidence through cycle training and led bike rides.

Created in West Yorkshire as part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme, it is an excellent example of how targeted cycling initiatives in areas of income and health inequality can achieve positive behaviour change, public health benefits and sustainable transport goals.

Who takes part in Cycle for Health?

Cycle for Health is targeted to help adults who are inactive or doing very minimal exercise and are not already benefitting from an alternative activity, such as swimming.

To take part:

  • Participants are referred by primary and secondary health care services, exercise referral schemes or specialist health-support charities. The health professional considers that 12 weeks of cycling and activity will have a positive effect on a person's mental or physical well-being.
  • Participants need to be able to ride a standard two-wheel cycle a short distance on the flat. Experienced instructors will help those who haven’t ridden a bike for many years.
  • Participants need to commit to attend a minimum of 75% of the course (9 of 12 sessions).
  • Participants may qualify if supporting a relative, colleague or friend through a long or short-term health condition or suffering from addiction.
How is Cycle for Health delivered?

Courses are delivered in small groups of no more than 12 participants, with qualified instructors and rider leaders, as a two-hour session each week. 

The course delivers a steady and achievable increase in activity, and participants are encouraged to set targets. 

Bikes are provided, and locations are selected which offer links to green spaces and traffic-free cycle routes. 

At the end of the course, participants are signposted to other cycling opportunities to help them continue to develop.

Cycle for Health is being delivered by Cycling UK on behalf of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority City Connect project. It has three targets: 

  • to increase participant activity levels thereby improving their health and wellbeing 
  • to change participant travel behaviour by offering cycling as a mode of transport
  • to offer opportunities to cycle where otherwise it would not be possible
The instructors were very supportive and after a few sessions I was confident enough to ride on the cycle greenway. Riding has given me a real sense of achievement and increased my belief in my own abilities. I have also made new friends
Tony, Cycle for Health Leeds participant

Many people attending do not have access to a bike and so this helps to clear this initial barrier. The weekly structure is flexible and is driven entirely by the abilities of those attending.

Cycling for Health is currently available at:  

  • Bradford – Lister Park
  • Calderdale – Spring Hall Sports Site, Halifax
  • Kirklees – Princess Mary Stadium, Cleckheaton
  • Leeds – Cross Flatts Park, Beeston
  • Wakefield – Thornes Park Stadium

More venues will be activated in 2022

Before we even sit on the bikes, we start with getting used to how hard to squeeze the brakes. That gives beginners confidence to know that they can stop the bike once they start off. Some people may already be able to cycle but there’s something holding them back, it could be the skills to ride on the road safely, or fitness or confidence. Whatever it is, a 12-week Cycle for Health programme will get you up and away and you’ll soon be cycling further than you thought possible
John, Cycle for Health instructor
Cycle for Health outcomes

Cycle for Health is a proven formula. Robust monitoring and evaluation are in place to track changes in wellbeing as recognised by public health professionals and the Office of National Statistics

Highlight of outcomes of Cycle for Health in 2015-2020:

  • 71% of attendees did not cycle when signing up
  • 78% of attendees did not meet NHS guidelines for minimum amount of weekly activity (150min) on sign up
  • 69% of attendees met the NHS weekly activity guidelines following the project
  • 9% increase in people using bike as mode of transport following the project
  • Attendees reported a 25% increase in physical ability following the project
  • 27% increase in confidence levels of attendees following the project
  • 29% increase in optimism of attendees following the project
  • 38% of attendees come from the most deprived areas of England
  • 26% of attendees are from a non-white background
More information

To discuss delivering Cycle for Health for your service users or community, contact us by email, or telephone 01483 904562