Tandem delight for Edinburgh cycling club for blind and partially sighted people

Riders from VIE Velo tandem club getting ready for a club ride
  • Ten tandems handed over to VIE Velo club by charity Cycling UK
  • Edinburgh and Lothians club brings sighted and blind or partially sighted cyclists together on tandem rides
  • Club on the lookout for more sighted pilots and blind or partially sighted ‘stokers’ – with try-out session later this month
  • High-resolution images available at: https://www.skyfish.com/p/cyclinguk/2095382

An Edinburgh-based cycling club for blind and partially sighted people is celebrating receiving ownership of a fleet of 10 tandems from cycling charity Cycling UK.

The tandems were handed over to VIE Velo at a ceremony at Saughton Park in Edinburgh on Saturday (6 August 2022), having previously been on loan to the club.

VIE Velo brings together sighted pilots, who ride on the front of a tandem, with blind and visually impaired stokers, who ride on the back.

The club was set up with support from Cycling UK in 2018 thanks to funding from the RS Macdonald Charitable Trust and later Transport Scotland, with the aim that the club would eventually become independent and self-sustaining. The donation of tandems helps to secure the long-term future of the club.

Ken Reid, chair of VIE Velo who accepted the donation, said:

“Tandem cycling is a great way for blind and partially sighted people to get physically and socially active. VIE Velo has been set up with the involvement of blind and partially sighted people from the outset, to enable others from this community to share in the pleasure that tandem riding can provide.

“We are extremely grateful to Cycling UK, who had the initial idea, and we also appreciate the contribution of the RS Macdonald Charitable Trust in funding our first fleet of tandems. Cycling UK has now transferred these bikes to VIE Velo which will ensure that we can continue to provide tandem cycling opportunities into the future.”

Suzanne Forup, Cycling UK’s head of behaviour development for Scotland, said:

“It is a pleasure and privilege to officially hand over this fleet of tandems to VIE Velo. This thriving and inclusive club plays a hugely important role in enabling blind and partially sighted people to enjoy the thrill of cycling and is a credit to everyone involved. We are proud that Cycling UK has been able to help set up the club and will be delighted to see it grow and develop even further.”

As a person with a disability you’re used to always having the brakes on. You have to be so careful how you move around, but here’s an opportunity to go fast. It’s great, the freedom is really liberating!

Maire Kilgallon, VIE Velo member

VIE Velo is always on the lookout for new riders and welcomes everyone aged 16 or over. Training is provided to help people build up their skills and confidence.

Club rides depart from Saughton Park in Edinburgh on the first Saturday and third Sunday of each month, plus fortnightly evening rides on Wednesdays during the summer.

Routes venture right across Edinburgh and the Lothians and also into Fife. The club has had 55 riders take part so far in 2022, and usually has between six and 10 tandems on a ride.

The club has a ‘come and try it’ session on Sunday 14 August at 12:30 in Saughton Park, to which all are welcome.

VIE Velo has an open and friendly ethos and every ride includes a café stop where people can socialise and get to know each other better.

Mr Reid continued: “We are a sociable bunch, with the emphasis on having a good ride, within everyone’s capability, and taking time to chat and enjoy tea and cake – the essential ingredients of good cycling!

“Our blind and partially sighted members are appreciative of the time and effort that the sighted riders put in to give us the opportunity to ride. A strong bond of trust is essential between stoker and pilot on a tandem and it is great watching those bonds develop and grow into true friendship.”

Maire Kilgallon from Edinburgh has ridden with the club for three years as a stoker. She has retinitis pigmentosa which she says means she has reasonable central vision but no peripheral vision. She said:

“It’s social and there’s a real camaraderie. It’s quite inspirational – you have this perception that once you have a disability you can’t do anything any more. But here you have people who remain active and don’t let their disability be a barrier.

“As a person with a disability you’re used to always having the brakes on. You have to be so careful how you move around, but here’s an opportunity to go fast. It’s great, the freedom is really liberating!”

Craig Scott-Angell, 40, from South Queensferry rides as a pilot with the club. He said: “It’s great from a social aspect as you can talk to someone on a tandem quite easily. You learn so much about each person you ride with. I’m not only getting the social aspect, I’m also helping other people who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to go cycling.

“It’s a friendly club, everyone’s welcoming, there’s no pressure and everyone helps each other out. I’d encourage anyone interested to get in touch and come and give it a go!”

Contact vieveloridecoordinator@gmail.com or visit www.facebook.com/VieVelo.edinburgh to find out more.

Notes to editors

  1. 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
  2. VIE Velo is an Edinburgh-based tandem club which brings the joy of cycling to blind and partially sighted people and sighted pilots. We are growing our community through regular organised rides and welcome everyone aged 16 and over. Social interaction is just as important as riding for us, and every ride includes a generous café stop. We provide training to those new to tandem riding. www.facebook.com/VieVelo.edinburgh

Press contact information

For more information, please call Sam Waller on 07775 595998 or email sam.waller@cyclinguk.org. Out of hours, call 07786 320 713. Please note that due to Covid restrictions, the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not currently being monitored.