Categories CharitiesEnvironment

Cycling opportunities in Poplar go up a gear as community cycle hub launches

Safety, confidence and bike storage are some of the top barriers to cycling being addressed by Chrisp Street Community Cycles, a holistic community “cycle hub” pilot that has launched in Poplar, Tower Hamlets.

Environmental charity Hubbub, in collaboration with housing association Poplar Harca and walking and cycling charity Sustrans, has transformed an empty high street shop into a bike library with a difference. The project not only lends out kids and adult bikes and accessories to the local community for free, but also provides cycling advice, guided rides, free bike repairs and even access to a disco bike.

The scheme has been part inspired by a group of women taking part in a project for those who may be less likely to cycle, including Muslim women and women of colour in Bow, Tower Hamlets. The project, which Hubbub runs in partnership with charity Cycle Sisters, aims to overcome barriers through weekly social rides where women can cycle in a supportive and social environment. 

In line with the Tower Hamlets Bike Life (2019) report, this project also found that safety concerns and storage were the two of the biggest barriers preventing women from cycling. Building on this, Chrisp Street Community Cycles will pilot whether access to training, social rides and free bike loans will encourage more residents to cycle.

The Tower Hamlets Bike Life report also found that only 6% of women and 16% of men cycle at least once a week in Tower Hamlets and overall, 36% of residents feel that they should cycle more. The new hub will be testing whether some of the barriers can be overcome – for example it will provide ’learn to cycle’ sessions and family and social rides to increase skills and confidence. It will also provide bikes for both children and adults to borrow for free to overcome storage issues, with Tower Hamlets being the second most densely populated borough in the UK. 

Local resident Sangeeta has enrolled for free adult cycling lessons at the hub to increase her confidence after years of not cycling and because it is important for her to incorporate regular exercise into her life. Sangeeta is now cycling to work, as well as exploring local cycle routes with her two children aged 4 and 10, on bikes loaned by the hub. Sangeeta feels fitter and healthier and is eager to point out that she is saving money in travel costs and reducing her carbon footprint.

Sangeeta said: 

“A year ago, my son’s bike was sitting at home gathering dust because he didn’t know how to ride it.  The hub has helped him and the cycle experts there make sure his bike is adjusted for his fit and comfort.

“For me, the convenient location of the hub and being able to book free cycling lessons, learn about bike safety and maintenance have been game-changing. If you’re rusty like me, you can learn to ride. It’s such good exercise.  It will help reduce pollution and kids will be more health conscious. Save your money, learn to ride. There are no cons, all pros.”

Babu Bhattacherjee, Director of Communities & Neighbourhoods at Poplar HARCA said: 

“Cycling offers many benefits towards creating sustainable and thriving neighbourhoods – from providing a low-cost way to travel, to reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our fitness levels. But a lack of access, storage and confidence can all be barriers in getting people in Poplar onto bikes. That’s why initiatives such as this, that give opportunities for local residents to borrow and learn about bikes, are essential if we want to encourage more cycling in our communities.”

Trewin Restorick, CEO and Co-founder of Hubbub said: 

“Cycling not only helps tackle climate change but it improves air quality, health and wellbeing, tackles congestion and reduces noise pollution on our roads. The community cycle hub has been co-designed with residents to meet the needs of the community, it breaks down many of the barriers to cycling and it aims to help change the social norm and show cycling is for everyone. Every part of the community should have an opportunity to enjoy what cycling has to offer. We look forward to sharing the learnings of this pilot with other organisations keen to support community cycling schemes.”

The cycle hub will be open between 10am and 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays throughout September. To find out more visit www.communitycycles.co.uk

Instagram: ChrispStreetCommunityCycles