Helping Hackney keep cycling during lockdown

Rich Wevill's picture

Helping Hackney keep cycling during lockdown

A free scheme offering essential bike-fixing and safety checks has been music to the ears of residents in the London borough of Hackney
  • Hundreds of cyclists have had brakes checked and gears adjusted enabling them to keep safe on the road
  • Running Dr Bike surgeries helped not-for-profit Cycle Folk to provide work for mechanics 
  • Charity Cycling UK has run projects across London to support people in the capital who cannot afford to get their bikes fixed

Almost 600 local residents in Hackney have been helped to keep cycling thanks to free cycle safety-checks and repaired provided by a dedicated team at not-for-profit collective Cycle Folk

The group has delivered more than 20 community cycling events since September 2020, adhering to COVID-19 safe working. Despite huge demand from the local community, mechanics have still found the time to hold many hundreds of conversations, sharing knowledge about how to start as well as keep cycling. 

The events were part of Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival, with funding provided by the Department of Transport. This is the first time that the project has been rolled-out in London, having previously focussed on other regions.  

Derek Mullan, who founded Cycle Folk in 2013, said: “Our events have been attended by children and adults from all walks of life. The common denominator being that they all rely upon cycling for everyday essential journeys or want to get cycling as an alternative to driving or public transport.  

“Attendees have been essential workers and their children, and other parents and children attending school through lockdown. We have also had job seekers, retired people, charity workers, and out of work families too.  

“We are in an area where levels of car ownership are low and transport poverty is high, particularly in the current climate, so a simple bike can make all the difference between getting a job or not. We estimate that almost half of our attendees have been women, and more than a third have been from a BAME background.” 

He added: “The Big Bike Revival funding also allowed us to trial and establish a permanent Dr Bike clinic at a local community centre, (renovated by nearby residents from a disused toilet block). We were able to demonstrate local demand, and now the event hosts have secured additional funding to make the clinic available for another 12 months.”  

In addition to being cycle mechanics, the team are also accredited cycle instructors, but with income from cycle training having largely disappeared as a result of the pandemic, the ability to run community events has served as a lifeline for Cycle Folk. “Working on these events has provided income and a sense of purpose through a very difficult time,” Derek said. 

I have cycled across London every day for more than 15 years on my commute, so I know just how vital it is to have access to a safe and dependable bicycle

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK chief executive

One of those helped by the scheme was Bod Brewster, a live music producer for the BBC, who accessed the service last autumn. She said: “I was just riding past when I saw the sign saying free bike repairs so I stopped and pulled in. I only started riding more regularly during lockdown so I was still a fairly new cyclist. They were really great, I didn’t have to wait very long and my bike was seen in about 10-15 minutes. They went through the gears with me and tightened up a few things.  

“I cycled off but something didn’t feel quite right and so I turned around and the same person saw me again and fixed it straight away.”   

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK chief executive said: “I have cycled across London every day for more than 15 years on my commute, so I know just how vital it is to have access to a safe and dependable bicycle to make those short essential journeys. Our Big Bike Revival project is there to help give support to those who want to cycle but might need a little extra encouragement to do so. 

“Communities like Hackney have been discovering the great benefits of cycling through the fantastic work of our delivery partners. As all of us spend more time indoors during the current lockdown, getting outside and cycling really helps with our physical and mental health and it is better for our planet too.”  

The Big Bike Revival is administered by Cycling UK which works with independent bike shops, mobile mechanics and community projects across the country to provide services to support those who wish to return to cycling or to try riding for the first time.  

Cycle Folk will be continuing to deliver Big Bike Revival Dr Bikes events in the community until the end of March. For more information about venues and times visit www.cycle-folk.com 

Contact information 

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not being monitored. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900 - 1700) please call Richard Wevill on 07785 381648 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org. Out of hours, call 07786 320713.  

Notes to editors 

Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often. www.cyclinguk.org

For advice on what you need to do to take up cycling see: https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/campaigns-guide/cycling-tips-24-essent... 

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