The Go ByCycle team have been working with a group of women from Inverness Women's Aid to support them to feel happier and more confident on a bike.
The women were given a loan bike, helmet, lock and repair kit to keep as their own for three months and have had weekly sessions with the Go ByCycle team. Initially some of the women were hesitant about riding- one hadn't been on a bike for 27 years! Gradually their confidence improved as they spent more and more time riding regularly.
One morning a week we would ride together as a group, starting off by riding through the Merkinch Nature Reserve, along the canal and on quiet roads. The speed of the group increased as they got used to their bikes and we went further and further- from Merkinch round the Ness Islands, and some even went as far as the Dores road.
As we rode we talked about road positioning, dealing with traffic, looking confident on your bike (even if you didn't always feel it), rights of way, junctions and roundabouts. Most importantly we talked about knowing your limits- it's always ok to jump off and push over a scary roundabout, and far better to do that than not to go out at all. By starting off small and gradually working up to bigger junctions and roundabouts people's confidence and understanding of the road, and their ability to predict the behaviour of other traffic grew. Riding next to someone who is confident on a roundabout is a great way to improve skills too. By the end of the sessions one woman was riding round the Shore Street roundabout (one of the busiest roundabouts in Inverness) by herself- an amazing achievement especially since she started off saying she was "really nervous cycling on the road".
On wet days we ran mechanics sessions (or sometimes went riding in spite of the weather- there was a lot of enthusiasm generated!). We looked at bike set up, basic brake maintenance and also ran puncture fixing workshops.
The group say that they loved the sessions- they recorded their mileage each week to motivate them to ride more often and they say that they are still getting out for a ride every Thursday even though Velocity's input has ended. When the time came for the loan bikes to be returned were we able to exchange Velocity's loan bikes for bikes that had been generously donated by a customer and that had been repaired at the Workshop. This means that not only are unwanted bikes going to really good homes, it also means that the women can keep riding, feel good about their new skills and abilities and keep increasing their fitness.
This is what they said:
"Having a bike is good for me as when I'm feeling a bit stressed going out for a bike ride has been really beneficial at really relieving stress."
"I can now cycle on roads and even roundabouts where as before I wouldn't even contemplate doing anything like that. I have even cycled round town on my own."
"I can't thank this project enough."
"I really enjoyed my time out on bikes and I had a great laugh."
All participants said they felt fitter and healthier, and more positive about life in general.
Thanks to the Climate Challenge Fund for supporting this great project.