New WheelNess project to improve health and wellbeing by getting people cycling in Inverness

Participants at the WheelNess launch event in Inverness
Participants riding a variety of bikes and trikes at the WheelNess project launch in Inverness
Participants riding a variety of bikes and trikes at the WheelNess project launch in Inverness

New WheelNess project to improve health and wellbeing by getting people cycling in Inverness

New partnership, which will focus on people on low incomes or with health issues, is led by Cycling UK and was launched on Saturday (30 June).

A new project in Inverness has been launched to improve people’s health, wealth and happiness by supporting them to cycle for everyday journeys. WheelNess, which is being led by Cycling UK, will provide people with free access to a bike and a personal programme of support to help them get out and about on two wheels. It will have a particular focus on people on low incomes who might have struggled to afford a bike, or those with underlying health problems who might benefit from cycling.

People will be signposted to the project through a variety of organisations, including GP surgeries and Home Energy Scotland. Participants will receive a bike and helmet suitable for their needs from one of several independent bike shops in Inverness. In addition to individual support throughout the project, guided rides and maintenance workshops will help to build people’s confidence and skill levels. Everyone will also be given help and guidance to continue their cycling life beyond the WheelNess project.

Funded by Transport Scotland, WheelNess is a partnership between Cycling UK, local GPs, NHS Highland, HITRANS, The University of the Highlands and Islands, Home Energy Scotland, Sustrans, Velocity Cafe and Bicycle Workshop, and New Start Highland. As well as supporting people to cycle, the project will also seek to understand the complex social, financial and cultural factors that affect people’s transport choices. The information gained will inform the project partners in future work to help people make more everyday journeys by bike.

The project was launched at an event at Cairn Medical Practice in Inverness on Saturday 30 June, which was part of Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival programme of events. People had the chance to get a free bike check-up, try out a tandem or trike, and get lots of cycling advice including on e-bikes.

There are many barriers which prevent people cycling – from their individual circumstances to infrastructure and cultural issues. WheelNess will help us to understand those barriers, and use that knowledge to encourage people to cycle for everyday journeys around Inverness.

Suzanne Forup, Head of Development Scotland for Cycling UK 

Suzanne Forup, Head of Development Scotland for Cycling UK said: “We’re delighted that so many partners have come together to make this project a reality. WheelNess will get people cycling who otherwise wouldn’t be able to, which is great for health and wellbeing as well as reducing isolation. There are many barriers which prevent people cycling – from their individual circumstances to infrastructure and cultural issues. WheelNess will help us to understand those barriers, and use that knowledge to encourage people to cycle for everyday journeys around Inverness.”

Dr Katie Walter, Partner at Cairn Medical Practice said: “I have so many conversations with patients about how to make positive changes in their lives, so I am particularly pleased that this project is happening here in Inverness: it will give us another possible approach to enable people to make a big change with a locally designed, well supported project. It also comes at a time of real readiness, among the GP community, to be more effective in signposting our patients to high quality initiatives to improve activity and wellbeing. Exciting times!”

Dan Jenkins, Health Improvement Specialist for NHS Highland said: “Transport costs can really add up, and buying a bike is also out of many people’s budget. WheelNess is a brilliant community initiative which will help give people vital new local travel options. Of course, cycling is good for people’s overall physical health, but it also helps our mental and emotional wellbeing, increases opportunities to connect with the environment around us, and brings a lot of fun and freedom.”

Contact information 

For press enquiries, please contact Sam Waller on 07775 595998 or sam.waller@cyclinguk.org. For any other enquiries about WheelNess, please contact Brendan Dougan on 07785 601612 or brendan.dougan@cylinguk.org.

Notes to editors 
  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. Home Energy Scotland is a Scottish Government programme managed by the Energy Saving Trust. We are a network of local advice centres covering all of Scotland. Our expert advisors offer free, impartial advice on energy saving, renewable energy, sustainable transport, waste prevention and more. www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland/home-energy-scotland.
  3. Sustrans is the charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle, by connecting people and places, creating liveable neighbourhoods, transforming the school run and delivering a happier, healthier commute. www.sustrans.org.uk.
  4. Velocity Cafe and Bicycle Workshop aims to promote access to cycling and a healthy happy lifestyle. We have an inclusive, supportive ethos and welcome all sorts of cyclists- elite athletes to complete beginners- to our cafe and bike workshop. www.velocitylove.co.uk.
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