Community getting more people to ‘RIDE!’
By Imade Edosomwan and Annette Pattinson
Imade is County Councillor (Labour) for Blackbird Leys and Annette is founder of JoyRiders Oxford
Before March, I’d never ridden a bike, and now I don’t want to go anywhere without one.
Hassan Sabrie is one of the directors of Oxford Community Action (OCA), a community organisation based in Blackbird Leys. He’s a recent convert to the joys of cycling – an enthusiasm he’s working hard to share with the rest of his local community.
OCA was founded in 2019 with an ambition to support Black and minoritised communities. It runs projects from food growing to hiking to camping. One of its latest and most successful projects is RIDE!: getting bikes to people in the community, and teaching mums and kids to ride safely and confidently. It has transformed people’s lives.
Learning to RIDE!
‘It’s really changed things for around 20 families,’ says Laura di Giacomo, who taught people to ride as part of the project ‘It’s been such a huge joy helping so many people have better access to their city. One local mum struggled to learn, and after a lot of patience and persistence, cried tears of joy when she finally started to pedal. It was a real confidence boost for her.’
‘Another mum in Rose Hill was taking three buses with her son to get him to school every day. We started gradually, getting them to cycle to the second stop so they could avoid one bus. It built up from there, and eventually they were cycling the whole way. They’ve now worked out a quiet route and love their journey to school rather than hating it.’
Making a difference
Hassan sees the difference it’s making for many people in his neighbourhood. ‘Often our local families can’t afford to own a car, and struggle with the cost of bus fares. Being able to ride a bike for free to get places helps hugely with family finances and means kids can access activities during the holidays. Plus it keeps you fit and healthy, which is a big motivator for a lot of people.’
Hassan emphasises that many members of the local community and beyond have contributed to the project. It was led by OCA and CyclAbility, with support from local county councillors, Active Oxfordshire, and cycling charities JoyRiders and Broken Spoke. There are big ambitions for the next step: many more families are keen to join. Hassan would like to organise regular community bike rides, and train up community leaders to become bike instructors themselves.
Maintenance of the bikes is key. A small thing like a puncture can mean a bike goes out of use for weeks, and new learners then don’t retain their skills and confidence. It’s therefore vital to make sure people have access to a trained bike mechanic.
The bikes which were distributed came from a range of sources: donated locally, via Asylum Welcome, from bike libraries or purchased with the project funding. Some were even delivered by bike trailer.
Making cycling accessible to all
Oxford is a good place to try out cycling if you’re new to it, with many safe routes around the city and more opening up in East Oxford all the time. Cyclox has recently published Oxford Online Cycle Map to help new riders know where to cycle safely. But we are still not inclusive enough as a city: many people would like to start cycling but can’t afford it, never learned, or worry about cycling on busy roads. With community projects like RIDE! – and many other local grassroots organisations doing similar great work – we really can make cycling accessible for all.
The project is looking to expand so if you have a child or adult bike you would like to donate, please drop us an email on email@example.com