Come ride with me at South Bristol's brilliant cycle centre
T’S NO secret that if more of us took to two wheels instead of four, not only would we start to feel a bit healthier, but Bristol’s famously congested roads might become a bit easier to use. There are lots of reasons why people don’t choose a bicycle to get around. Lack of confidence; not feeling fit enough; not knowing how to fix it; not having ridden for decades – the list is endless. But at the Bristol Family Cycling Centre in Hengrove, they have an answer to every one – and some reasons you never thought of in the first place.
Picture: Regular visitors Glenys Jones and Kristy Durbin on the traffic-free track
South Bristol has one of the finest biking centres in this part of the world, and it’s got something for everyone
IThe cycling centre opened last May but is still one of the city’s best-kept secrets – not helped by its location, tucked away behind a coach company off Bamfield, down a track which points to Action Indoor Sports.
But it shouldn’t be kept quiet, because the facilities are excellent, and include a totally safe oval track that’s completely off road and gives everyone a chance to do anything they want on a bike, whether it’s competitive riding to the gentlest of sessions for the less able.
There’s a workshop where adults and youngsters can learn how to look after their bike, and a large flat area away from the track where the less confident can get their balance and learn how to manoeuvre.
So far almost 2,000 people have visited the centre and scores of people have been taught how to ride a bike. Lots were children but many were adults, perhaps returning to the saddle after decades away.
“Many elderly people think their bike riding days are behind them. It’s only when they see how much fun it is that they can be persuaded to have a go,” said Emma Barraclough, community active travel officer at the centre.
“And we can cater for people who may not be confident on a two-wheeler.
“We get lots of parents bringing their children up and we suggest they get on a bike and they say no. But then they do try and they really enjoy it!
“We have been very successful with the learn to ride sessions – we have enabled 150 people to learn to ride. Some of them have never been on a bike before. But we have a traffic-free place here, it’s a really safe environment.
Glenys Jones, in her 70s from Whitchurch, is now enjoying cycling again after 59 years.
“I came up here first with my daughter and grandchildren and they said, ‘Why don’t you have a go?’ I said it wasn’t for me, but the grandchildren kept on at me.
“I think they were amused to see me make it all the way around the track!”
Now Glenys is a regular visitor, borrowing one of the centre’s bikes for a few laps round the track, but she’s enjoying it so much she is thinking of getting her own.
“I just love it. It’s the freedom. You can do it on your own, and at your own pace. I would be nervous going on the road, but I am thinking about getting my own bike! My daughter takes her children up to the Downs to cycle and I could join them.
“I think my late husband would have been amazed. It proves than anybody can do it, of whatever age. Just because you are a pensioner doesn’t mean you can’t!” she told the Voice.
WHAT GOES ON
There are lots of ways to enjoy the Family Cycling Centre.
• Learn to ride, whether you’re a child or adult;
• Learn bike maintenance;
• Take part in the Social Cycle – sessions for adults at risk of isolation, with Bristol Bike Project;
• Cycling for the less able with a huge range of cycles from hand-operated ones to cycles for wheelchair users;
• Free for all sessions where the less able can cycle around with friends and family;
• Volunteer to help visitors, serve refreshments, do some gardening and more;
• Work placements for people with learning difficulties and other disabilities.
Planned for 2017:
• Competitive events including wheelchair racing and special Olympics events;
• A bike club for children and young people to improve their skills.
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