Charity getting adults back in the saddle on Bristol's roads

August 30 2013
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Cycling in a city like Bristol can be daunting for many people – particularly for adults who might not have ridden the roads for years.

by Rebecca Day

Cycling in a city like Bristol can be daunting for many people – particularly for adults who might not have ridden the roads for years.

However, initiatives like Life Cycle UK are helping adults to rekindle their friendship with the bicycle and to feel more confident on Bristol's roads.

Delivering cycle training in Bristol for over 10 years, Life Cycle UK aims to bring the joys and benefits of cycling to everyone in the city. This small charity is making big changes to local people’s lives by building confidence and improving well-being.

Since the introduction of free lessons and improvements to their website, Life Cycle UK has noticed a “huge” uptake in bookings for adult cycle lessons.

From January 1, a number of lessons by Life Cycle UK have been fully funded by Bristol City Council. Beginners qualify for three free lessons, intermediate riders qualify for two and advanced cyclists are entitled to one.

Furthermore, the charity has also made a large investment in revamping its website. A new, online booking process allows clients to register for lessons in a location suiting them and the instructor then contacts them directly to arrange a time and date. Booking online requires a refundable £5 deposit and each session lasts an hour.

“The combination of free lessons and an easy web-based booking process has resulted in many more people accessing cycle training,” explains Frances McMillan, the charity’s cycle training co-coordinator. “This has enabled people to improve their fitness and well-being, help the environment and Bristol’s notorious congestion problems, while having fun with friends and family.”

Locations have been risk-assessed by an instructor who knows where the best routes are – both on and off road. First lessons involve the instructor inspecting the client’s bike, ensuring it is set up for optimum riding comfort. The instructor then checks the client’s basic skills and the rest of the session involves working on the areas the client wishes to cover.

Sophia, an employee at the University of Bristol who took cycling lessons, said: “I’m really happy to be a more confident cyclist now, and I really want to thank [Life Cycle UK] for being so patient and supportive throughout. For me it feels like a really big achievement to cycle everyday. I had avoided it for 10 years or so because I thought I couldn’t do it.”

Currently two instructors are operating in North Bristol; Tabitha, who covers Redland and Cotham, and Alasdair, who covers Bishopston and St Andrew’s.

“One of the biggest issues our clients have is confidence,” explains Frances. “However, we help that by teaching assertive riding. Also, someone may be avoiding hills but if taught how to use gears correctly they can tackle them with comparative ease, therefore opening up more route options.

“Plus, the more people cycling the more drivers will need to accommodate them.”

For more details or to book a lesson, visit: www.lifecycleuk.org.uk/cycle-training-adults.