Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Inclusive cycling in Waltham Forest

CEO Jim Blakemore on how social enterprise Bikeworks is helping address health inequality with its Inclusive Cycling Programme  Waltham Forest is in the [...]

Hero for Inclusive cycling in Waltham Forest
Calvin, a local resident using Bikeworks’ adapted cycles (Credit: Bikeworks)
By Waltham Forest Echo 05 August 2021

CEO Jim Blakemore on how social enterprise Bikeworks is helping address health inequality with its Inclusive Cycling Programme 

Waltham Forest is in the top 20% most deprived areas in England, according to Public Health England, so access to affordable exercise is a big issue for low-income households. 

The Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months has exacerbated this even further – especially in a world where disability, ethnicity and economic status means you are more likely to face exclusion from many opportunities afforded to others. 

During this turbulent time, Bikeworks, an East London community social enterprise which has a fleet of over 300 adapted cycles, has been supporting residents of Waltham Forest to reconnect with outdoor activity. Many have been living in isolation for months because of lockdown restrictions – and we know that loneliness poses great health risks. 

As part of our inclusive cycling activities, which are targeted at people experiencing ill-health and who have mental health needs, we have provided free-to-access inclusive cycling at our All-Ability Club to over 100 residents at Lloyd Park, Walthamstow this year. The people we meet tell us they have been overlooked and exc l u d e d from exercise because they are disabled, or a carer. 

We also offer professional advice for local people with personal challenges, who need assistance when purchasing an adaptive cycle. For example, swapping where the brakes and grip handlebars are placed, or trying out a different type of cycle. 

Other initiatives include our Ride Side- By-Side programme, a cycle taxi service for older people experiencing isolation. We had a 92-year-old lady join us recently for a trip to the shops! 

As many of us know, health inequalities exist across society. The pandemic has only exposed this: people who have more power, money or other resources live longer, healthier lives. 

To put this into context, people with a learning disability will have their physical and mental health significantly compromised. A woman with a learning disability has her life expectancy reduced by 20 years, according to data from Mencap. And residents who live in the more affluent areas of Waltham Forest live on average six years longer than those in the most deprived. 

Surely, this can’t be acceptable? As we emerge into a new normal, things must change. Our aspiration for the borough – and all of East London – is to help people live healthier lives, regardless of personal circumstance. We will aim to support the hundreds of often-forgotten people who live locally, to reconnect with outdoor activity. Cycling should be accessible to all. 

For more information or to get involved, visit the Bikeworks website