A cycling experience
Lee Valley VeloPark
Social enterprise Bikeworks was inspired by London winning the bid for the Games. Founding partners Zoe Portlock and Jim Blakemore (pictured above, second from left with Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone and West Ham MP Lyn Brown) wanted to harness the once in a lifetime opportunity to enable everyone to experience cycling at a world class venue regardless of barriers or ability.
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority shared this vision and, in addition to Lee Valley VeloPark becoming a base for Bikeworks in 2018, the Authority provided funding for all ability bikes and for 18 young people from underrepresented groups to complete a cycle maintenance course.
Bikeworks offers free All Ability Cycling Clubs specifically targeted at disadvantaged groups. The aim is to give participants an opportunity to try a range of cycles and then continue their engagement through attending regular weekly club sessions. For many members this weekly club session is their only opportunity for physical exercise every week and a valuable opportunity for social interaction with staff and other members.
Bikeworks has grown considerably over the past 10 years through new initiatives such as Cycling for Wellbeing, a free, inclusive cycling programme designed to address the needs of people in East London experiencing a wide range of health issues such as anxiety, stress or depression, severe mental health issues, social isolation or anyone wanting to do more physical exercise to reduce the risk of obesity or diabetes. Bikeworks’ Side by Side Cycle Taxi has also been a huge success, offering a four wheeled cycling taxi service transporting participants around London in order to enable those with mobility issues or feeling socially isolated to access cycling in a social environment.
With a new Inclusive Cycling Centre of Excellence opening in late 2022, just a stone’s throw from Lee Valley VeloPark, Bikeworks will offer more programmes and more opportunities for everyone to enjoy the benefits of cycling.
Lamin, a Cycling for Wellbeing participant attended eight sessions in Victoria Park and took part in a ride to Three Mills Green in East London, said “Now I can’t wait to enjoy riding my bike around these beautiful places rather than be sitting at home, watching TV and feeling lonely… You guys wouldn’t know how happy I am on the inside all the time when I am riding with everyone!”
Kulsum, a Cycling for Wellbeing participant from Plaistow, who had not ridden a bike for 45 years, said “Since cycling my knee pain has gone, my cholesterol has gone down, and I have been struggling with that for years! I don’t want to let go of cycling now. We live about a mile away from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and we never knew about these places. Now we come here for walking and bring our grandchildren here.”