Finding ways for people of all ages and abilities to choose active travel

This article was published in 2021, in Magazine 150.

Fitness and wellbeing through handcycling

Kris and his handcycleKris lives with Cerebral Palsy. He uses a wheelchair to get around, but he wanted to improve his fitness. He was dreaming of a hand cycle, but the cost was just too high – they retail for over £1,000.

His Occupational Therapist suggested that he get in touch with Community Navigators – a local, grass-roots charity which supports many older people and adults with disabilities to build on their strengths and access opportunities in order to live independent, fulfilling lives. Kris got in touch with their District Coordinator, Lorraine Clarke, who helped make his dream a reality. Working through a long list of charities and grants, she helped him to make a successful application to the Barchester Health Foundation and ultimately buy his bike.

Once the cycle arrived, Kris wasted no time. When Lorraine visited him a week later, he said: ‘I’ve been going out on the bike two to three times a day. I’m starting to build my upper-body muscles and have started to do more physically and feel better in myself.’

During 2020, Community Navigators helped over 4,000 people. They form part of Cambridgeshire’s Care Network, operating as a gateway to community support. If you or someone you know would like support from the Community Navigator team, you can contact their Cambridge City team on 01223 300460 or email

If you would like to support Care Network’s vision for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, as a donor or volunteer, please visit or find them on Facebook.

Free rides for key workers and discounts for students on use of shared e-bikes

Voi e-bike in CambridgeSince 21 January 2021, Voi e-bikes have been available to rent as part of a 12-month trial scheme to support a green restart of the economy and ease the burden on public transport during the current pandemic and beyond. The pilot scheme, backed by both the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and the Department for Transport, aims to encourage a shift away from cars for short journeys to help limit traffic congestion and CO2 emissions.

As with the e-scooter trial, which began in October 2020, Voi is offering NHS and emergency service workers free access to its e-bikes during the lockdown as part of its Voi 4 Heroes initiative. This makes it easier for keyworkers to commute and run errands around Cambridge and Peterborough in a carbon-neutral, socially-distanced way. To be eligible, users must upload their NHS identity, Blue Light or Defence Discount Service card to the Voi app or website.

For other residents, it costs £1 to unlock the e-bike and then £0.15 per minute of usage. Voi also offers 24-hour (at £10) and 30-day (at £40) subscriptions that allow users to take an unlimited number of rides at a fixed rate. In addition, there are discounts for students and low-income individuals. The e-bikes are available to rent 24/7 in each city. To get started, users can download the Voi app, available free on Apple App Store or Google Play.

Mobility, simplicity and connection with a folding e-bike

John Barker on his Flit BikeI am a longstanding Camcycle member and veteran cyclist. In the summer of 2018, I attended one of Camcycle’s monthly meetings when Dave Henderson, the Technical Lead of Flit, introduced their innovative electric folding bike to Camcycle members. As an engineer, I was intrigued by the technical and user-friendly features of the Flit bike. Dave had a prototype with him that I was lucky to try out for a few minutes. It was a revelation!

I am 84, with metal knee joints which stop me walking or cycling far without aid, so I already owned an e-bike to help me get around. However, this e-bike is too big, heavy and complicated to dismantle for the boot of my small car or to take on public transport.

A few weeks later on my family holiday in Dorset, I found myself feeling frustrated at not being able to join the rest of the family on the daily walks, go into Corfe for a wander or even go to the local shop for a newspaper without using a car. This is one of the major challenges of rural ‘staycations’: if you have mobility issues, the most realistic way of getting about is by car.

This experience got me thinking back to the Flit bike. I’ve spent most of my life walking in the countryside and climbing mountains. I wouldn’t be able to climb mountains with a Flit bike, but I certainly could cycle along roads through the countryside and meet my family at their destination. When visiting friends and family around the country I would easily be able to take the bike on the train or in a car and be much more mobile once I had reached my destination. Also, it would enable me to do all the short trips that I habitually did by car.

Once back from the holiday I booked a test ride with Flit and decided to invest in one. Just over a year later, it was delivered (it was a ‘pledge’ product when ordered). It arrived at the perfect time during the Covid-19 pandemic when socially-distanced transport and devices to help one stay active are more important than ever, especially for someone in the vulnerable category.
I find the Flit bike extremely comfortable to ride over medium to long distances, which I didn’t really expect. I found it very stable, with suspension that smoothed out all the bumps. Of course, it isn’t as powerful as other heavier e-bikes but that doesn’t matter because it has a different function: the important thing is that it gives me the boost I need to climb hills without overloading my knee joints.

I think people often see folding bikes as commuter tools, but I believe they have huge potential to be useful to many people in many ways. For me, my folding electric bike increases my mobility, allowing me to stay connected with my family and get back out into the countryside which I have loved and enjoyed all my life. At the same time, I will reduce my carbon footprint by using my car less, which has been a major goal for me over the past few years. In the future, whenever I go away from home to visit family and friends around the UK, I will always take my folding bike, and then I am equipped to hop on it and keep up with life with less damage to the planet.

John Barker