Celebrating the key worker bike project
By Kathryn McNicoll and Josh Lenthall
One year on from the start of the Bikes for Key Workers project we have handed out our last bike to a key worker, making the total in Oxford 345 bikes. With the Windrush Bike Project in Witney refurbishing at least 100 bikes, and the Bicester project over 60, that means 500 bikes county wide. In Oxford, the project was made possible through the collaboration between Cyclox and Active Oxfordshire and the generosity of donors and volunteer mechanics – at least 3,000 volunteer hours have gone into making this project a huge success. The project went that bit further, offering a joined-up solution to the need for alternative transport. The recipients were not only given a bike but also a lock, lights, a cycling map of Oxford and information on how to maintain their bikes. Those who were wobbly, or unsure, were offered free tuition.
How do we measure success? Statistics collected by Active Oxfordshire show that all the recipients of the bikes are at least 10% more active than they used to be and 68% are still cycling to work in spite of the winter weather. Moreover, 55% of those we gave bikes to had not cycled regularly since childhood (if at all) so a whole new group of people is now on bikes.
The vast majority of key workers, over two-thirds of them, that we handed bikes out to were women. This community coming-together has ensured that some of the most vulnerable key workers, who had most to lose when they couldn’t use public transport, have been empowered and feel supported and valued. There are so many key worker stories: Rachel now gets home earlier and has more time with her children; Fran feels fitter through cycling as she no longer feels safe going to the gym; Kyla feels fitter and stronger and the ride to work kick starts her day. That is just some of the lovely feedback we have had.
There are other individual success stories coming from participation in the project: Sara, one of our mechanics who gave many voluntary hours to us, is now a fully qualified Bikeability trainer and has become Treasurer for Cyclox. Jennifer, who gave tuition to key workers, has been able to work and train despite lockdown.
The project has also been a blueprint for other projects which have grown out of its success. Cyclox and Active Oxfordshire are delivering 3 free Dr Bike (bike maintenance) sessions in April and May, and Cyclox plans to continue with these sessions on a monthly basis. The Oxford Hub meanwhile is running the Ready Set Go project, a collaborative campaign which aims to ensure that all children can ride a bike by providing bike libraries in key places around Oxford – and, where necessary, bikes to parents who don’t have them to support families to be active together.
With JoyRiders (accompanied rides for women) starting in Oxford this year, a planned Celebration of Cycling across Oxford in September (watch this space!), ongoing Dr Bike sessions and Ready Set Go, Oxford is beginning to live up to its name as a Cycling City.