Faringdon’s Farcycles get local people cycling

Faringdon’s Farcycles get local people cycling

By Mark Harrison

Mark is a founder of Farcycles, a regional campaign coordinator for Cycling UK, a volunteer in Faringdon bike shop and a regular travel blogger at Roaminations.

How can local communities encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to choose bicycles for everyday travel? The topic came up at this month’s Oxfordshire Active Travel Roundtable, a monthly meeting for those interested in walking, wheeling and cycling across Oxfordshire. Each local community had developed its own model for encouraging active travel, and relied on a strong individual or group to set it up and keep it going.

Faringdon in Oxfordshire has a shining example of this in the Farcycles Bike Park and Shop. One person led the change from a bike ‘club’ to a community facility with a wide appeal: Lyn Williamson.

Making it happen

Lyn is someone who, once she gets hold of an idea, moves mountains to ensure that it comes to fruition. Her vision came from working as a rheumatologist, and witnessing the benefits of exercise. She wanted to equip many more individuals with the will and the skills to cycle. It needed a safe place and a group of qualified volunteers to build what has now become a cycle park that attracts people of all ages to new ways of getting about. Numbers continue to grow, with individuals and families coming to Faringdon from further and further afield.

Farcycles Bike Shop in Faringdon

The park is the hub for activities that encourage its ‘graduates’ to try their new skills on the roads and cycle paths of the surrounding area. New riders venture out first on instructor-led group rides until they are confident to travel alone.

All these new cyclists wanted to be able to buy sound but inexpensive bicycles. Their needs ranged from starter bikes for children, to reconditioned machines for adults. The Farcycles shop evolved to satisfy this need. It has diversified into servicing and mending bikes for local, and increasingly not so local, people. Like the bike park and training, the shop is staffed by volunteers, which enables it to provide great customer value.

How did Farcycles begin?

A group of Faringdon people came together in 2007 for casual cycling, eventually showing up in force to hug a wind turbine in the summer of 2009. The unsuspecting turbine was part of a new installation at Westmill Farm near Shrivenham.

The orchestrator of the hug was Sjoerd Vogt, a popular local figure. Sjoerd came up with the name ‘Farcycles’, which he insisted should be pronounced ‘farcicals’.

Numbers soon passed the 100 mark (today 400 seems within reach). A spread of rides evolved, catering for cyclists from the relatively timid to those who wanted to extend themselves. Social activities extended to twinning rides to France. An annual Sportive followed and was an instant success, ending up with surplus funds for the Farcycle coffers.

Lyn adds training to the offer

That’s where Lyn stepped in with her idea for providing foundations for newbies, from toddlers to 80-year-olds and beyond. It started with competency training in local schools. Lyn’s husband David, and fellow Farcycles Richard Glazer, Chris Kench and Gavin Hopkins, started mapping out plans for a dedicated cycle-training facility. This included acquiring a home at the Faringdon Sports Park. In the process, Farcycles was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. 

Today Faringdon’s bike training facilities continue to be free to anyone wanting to gain confidence and learn to cycle safely.


One Response

  1. […] children and people of all abilities can enjoy cycling and develop their skills in safety. The Faringdon Cycle Park is a great example of how popular dedicated facilities can be, but they can also form part of […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *