Pioneering cycling programme boosts health and wellbeing in West Yorkshire

The first phase of Cycle for Health helped more than 1,000 people in West Yorkshire
Rob Kingston's picture

Pioneering cycling programme boosts health and wellbeing in West Yorkshire

The Cycle for Health scheme provides a group programme aimed at improving the lives of those with physical and mental health conditions

People with long-term health conditions can benefit from an innovative programme aimed at improving all-round quality of life for people in communities most in need of support as the Cycle for Health scheme gets back under way. 

The pioneering programme is being delivered in partnership by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Cycling UK. It offers a structured route into regular activity for adults with long-term physical or mental health conditions who would particularly benefit from group exercise but may not otherwise have the opportunity to get involved. 

The 12-week course offers regular, low-impact activity with a familiar group of people and instructors. Participants can progress at their own pace, with support aimed at building long-term behaviour change and encouraging participants to remain active long after the course has finished.   

More than 1,000 people have already benefited from Cycle for Health since the first programme got underway in 2016, with participants reporting significant improvements in their mental and physical health.  

The courses are designed to be inclusive to everyone, with 38% of those taking part coming from the most disadvantaged communities in West Yorkshire, while 71% of participants are women. 

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “I promised in my election pledges to appoint an Inclusivity Champion to ensure the region’s recovery from the pandemic benefits us all.  

“The Cycle for Health scheme is a brilliant example of making sure no one is left behind when it comes to looking at ways to improve the health and wellbeing of people in West Yorkshire. 

“I want people from all communities and backgrounds to have the same opportunities, being able to access innovative support programmes such as this and experience the real benefits it delivers for themselves.” 

Projects such as this reflect Cycling UK's commitment to sharing those benefits as widely as possible, to people from all backgrounds

Cycling UK's chief executive, Sarah Mitchell

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Transport portfolio lead for West Yorkshire, said: “We’re so proud to have led the development of this ground-breaking scheme, and we’re even more proud to see the benefits it has brought to the more than 1,000 people who have taken part so far.  

“Cycle for Health is a fantastic example of what can be delivered at a grassroots level. 

 “As the region recovers from the coronavirus pandemic we're delighted to provide the programme again in 2021 to support the mental and physical health of the people who need it most.”   

Sarah Mitchell, chief executive of Cycling UK, said: “Cycling UK is delighted to be working with West Yorkshire Combined Authority to deliver the Cycle for Health scheme to more people across the region, building on its previous success. 

“Cycling is a tremendous way to boost our all-round wellbeing – physically, mentally and emotionally – and projects such as this reflect Cycling UK's commitment to sharing those benefits as widely as possible, to people from all backgrounds.” 

The Cycle for Health scheme is provided specifically for adults who are referred from healthcare organisations, including GPs and mental health services, as well as exercise referral schemes.  

Courses are run as weekly two-hour cycle training sessions over 12 weeks at sites across West Yorkshire. Developing relationships with community cycling groups is crucial to the programme so participants continue to be supported in being more active as part of their everyday lives. 

Evidence collected from previous years has shown the number of participants who met physical activity guidelines following the course rose to 73%, with 61% reporting their fitness had increased.  

Six weeks after completing the course more than 85% of people showed an overall increase in their cycling levels.   

Figures from September 2018 to September 2019 also showed considerable improvements in mental wellbeing, with participants reporting a 32% increase in confidence, a 29% increase in feeling close to others and a 26% increase in feeling relaxed.     

In addition to the pioneering Cycle for Health programme, CityConnect offers a range of support and free services to communities, businesses and schools, including free adult cycle training courses and walking for schools and businesses programmes. 

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 Rob Kingston on 07880 424 912 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org. Out of hours, call 07786 320 713

Notes to editors 
  1. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme works in partnership with a range of public, private and community organisations to encourage more people to cycle and walk short journeys. The CityConnect programme has received funding through the Department for Transport-funded Cycle City Ambition Grant (CCAG) and local match funding – a combined £60m package of works aimed at improving cycling infrastructure across West Yorkshire and York to make cycling and walking the natural choice for short journeys.
    The programme is delivered in partnership by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the five West Yorkshire councils and City of York Council. The programme is currently developing a package of works to access up to £14.8 million funding through the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund, and the Leeds City Region Growth Deal - a £1 billion package of Government investment through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region. 
    In partnership with Leeds City Council and City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, the team has completed work on the 23km Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway, which connects two of Yorkshire’s major cities with a route segregated from traffic. Communities across West Yorkshire and York are seeing the benefits of new, high quality cycling and walking infrastructure, including Bradford’s Canal Road Cycleway, Leeds’s City Centre Cycle Superhighway, the Castleford Wakefield Greenway, a series of canal towpath upgrades in Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale, and Scarborough Bridge, York. 
    Through CityConnect, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority also delivers a series of awareness campaigns and engagement initiatives, including support for businesses, schools and grassroots initiatives to boost the number of people travelling by bike or on foot.  
    For more information visit www.cyclecityconnect.co.uk
  2. West Yorkshire Combined Authority works in partnership with local councils and businesses to ensure that everyone in the region benefits from a strong, successful economy and a modern, accessible transport network. By championing the region’s interests nationally and internationally, the Combined Authority secures the investment to deliver better transport and housing, help businesses to grow and create jobs. 
    For more information visit www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk
  3. 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. 
    For more information visit www.cyclinguk.org.  
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