With Secretary for Transport, Grant Shapps announcing last June that levels of cycling in the UK have soared by as much as 200% on weekends with a 100% increase on weekdays, it’s no secret that cycling has surged in popularity during the pandemic.
One social enterprise hoping to keep up with this demand is Carryme Bikes, based in Hackney, helping families to feel safe when taking to their pedals. We caught up with Alix Stredwick, the Founding Director to find out how they have recently been supporting the local community.
Hi Alix, can you tell us a bit about Carryme Bikes?
Carryme Bikes is a social enterprise designed to help families and businesses use bikes to carry their kids and work loads. On the commercial side, we work like a standard bike shop – selling cargo bikes, running a ‘try before you buy’ service and repairing faulty cargobikes.
We also run a lot of community projects targeted around specific aspects, such as helping low-income families, or helping families to find the right bicycle kit for transporting their children.
How has Carryme Bikes developed and adapted over the past year?
During the pandemic, a lot more people turned to cycling as a form of exercise but also to get from A to B, rather than taking public transport. We changed our usual hire terms which is around three days to 1-2 weeks, upon our customers’ suggestion that they would prefer to keep their bikes for longer. We also implemented a free bike delivery service to the customer’s home if they lived in Hackney or Waltham Forest, to remove the need for collection at the shop.
Our Mums & Babes By Bikes project, designed to benefit mums on low income, has continued throughout the pandemic but on a more local level. We have provided bikes for mums who need to transport young children and lent them the equipment they need, such as child seats. We also offered training to help mums feel confident and safe on the roads – the training sessions are shorter than normal and designed to adapt around their schedules.
Beyond mums, we have also been able to help key workers through this project, including NHS staff and teachers. We had eight bikes in that project, and we have approximately 18 bikes in our cargobike fleet too, which anyone can hire.
We have also been running a ‘Lockdown Library’ for free for Waltham Forest residents. This involves a consultation over WhatsApp, where we talk about the different equipment we have and what will work best for them. We then travel by cargo bike and deliver things such as child seats, trailers and other gadgets for families to try, borrowing them like in a ‘lending library’. This project has also primarily been to help NHS staff and teachers that need to travel with their children in a safe way.
What does Carryme Bikes have planned post-lockdown?
Prior to the pandemic, we used to hold a lot of community events and are looking to start these up again in the summer – if we can gain more funding. We’re also hoping to expand our Mums & Babes By Bikes project and are on the lookout for more step through ladies bikes which are the most suitable.
Do you have any advice for those new to cycling?
I’d recommend booking a free cycling training session with your local council. There are also lots of freelance cycling instructors in London you can book with. Also buy the best locks you can afford! And change anything ‘quick release’ to bolts and security nuts.
For those who already have a bike, make sure to do an ABC check – check there’s air in the tyres, that the brakes work, and check that the chain is working and that you can push the pedals around (lift up the back of the bike while you do this). If you don’t yet have a bike, choose carefully and don’t just go for the cheapest! Make sure it’s a bike where you can sit comfortably, nice and straight, and can look behind yourself carefully.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is also a good place to practice cycling and build up your confidence before hitting the roads. A pump is also the single best thing to buy to make cycling easier!
To find out more about Carry Me Bikes, visit www.carryme.org.uk.
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