All Ability cycling possibilities!

This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 100.

The All Ability Cycling Project Team’s event at Milton Country Park brought together a range of local and international representatives including Angela Sanford (left), who has recently learnt to ride a two-wheeled bike; Mark Taylor, the Access Officer for Cambridge (in wheelchair with a visitor from Ashfield Bikes); and Ian Tierney, Director of Cycling Projects at Wheels for All.
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Last autumn, a local cycling project held an exciting event at Milton Country Park. The All Ability group aims to show that anyone can ride a bike, whether it is a two-wheeled bike or one of the many different types of adapted bikes available. The All Ability Cycling Project Team is seeking to encourage more people to cycle by establishing an all-inclusive club at a safe off-road facility where people with and without disabilities can take part and cycle together.

Last autumn they brought together a range of both local and international bodies interested in how they can support the initiative. Visitors included the Programme Manager of Cycle Cambridge, representatives from Sports Development, Outspoken, Cambridge Cycling Campaign, Sustrans and NHS Health Improvement, as well as local councillors. Even representatives from international charity UNICEF made an appearance to learn more about grassroots community development. As well as discussing how the project can be put into action, those present could not resist trying some of the specially-adapted bikes on offer on such a beautiful sunny day. Some attendees hadn’t cycled for years while others had never ridden a bike before. Mark Taylor, City Council Access Officer, described the feeling as ‘very enjoyable’, while a representative of the sports development team said: ‘It made cycling really easy’.

Sue Smith, Health Improvement Specialist, NHS Cambridgeshire, was one of the visitors.
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Angela Sanford led the presentations, showing the visitors how she had recently learnt to ride a two-wheeled bike despite having a visual impairment and a learning difficulty. She now regularly rides the cycle route next to The Busway with her sister. ‘Cycling makes me happy’, she says.

Aaran Hedges, an adult with learning difficulties, gave a presentation about the lack of cycling opportunities for people with disabilities in Cambridge. He showed visitors his photos from a cycling project he visited in London in 2009 and highlighted that, despite wanting to cycle with the rest of his family, there were no facilities for him to do so. It was this that had led him to develop the idea for an All Ability group.

As a volunteer community facilitator from The You Can Hub, I have been helping Aaran put his idea into practice. The You Can Hub is a new organisation set up to support people with disabilities in taking the lead in their communities in a variety of ways. Aaran and Angela are both developing presentation skills and confidence through taking the lead in the development of the project.

‘There’s a type of cycle for everybody’

I have been working in partnership with a number of other groups to make Aaran’s dream a reality. Ian Tierney, the Director of Cycling Projects at Wheels for All, was on hand to provide advice about how best to establish the project. He gave examples of how cycling is possible for lots of different people, people who think that they can’t cycle. ‘The perception is that they won’t be able to – it’s difficult, it’s dangerous, it’s too exertive – that’s not the case at all. There’s a type of cycle for everybody’, Ian says. ‘There’s a physical benefit, a mental benefit, a social benefit – it’s always pleasing to see someone try out a bike and see what they can do.’

Since the event, the All Ability project team have already been approached and asked to hold more events. South Cambridgeshire Council were enthusiastic about the day and thought that Milton Country Park was a perfect venue. Next on the agenda for the All Ability group will be a Bike Day, to be held at a Special School in Cambridge. The event will provide the opportunity for children with disabilities to ride, whilst at the same time demonstrating the health and social benefits of cycling to parents and carers.

The project team have already secured funding for two bikes and is aiming to secure £15,000 to support the further development of the project. If you would like to make a donation to support the running of the project or sponsor a bike, or if you would like more information, please contact Ruth Brannan, To stay up to date with the progress of the project, follow The You Can Hub on Twitter @youcanhub.

Ruth Brannan