People with disabilities and other support needs in Stirling are experiencing the joy and exhilaration of cycling for the first time thanks to a bespoke project.
Bikes Before Barriers

Bikes Without Barriers gives the local disability community - aged 12 or over – the chance to try out the activity for free via adapted cycles.

Up to 16 people – ranging in age between 12 and 82 – have been taking part in weekly sessions next to Forthbank Stadium during a six-week pilot programme, which has now been extended for a further three weeks due to popular demand. 

Participants build confidence, learn new skills and experience the beautiful Stirling surroundings in a new and fun way, with six enjoying cycling for the first time.

One participant, Hilary Russell (64) from Bannockburn said: “Going along to Bikes Without Barriers is a great experience. Everyone there is very helpful, not patronising, and they offer me great encouragement to try new and different things.”

The initiative is the brainchild of Christopher McKenna, Stirling Council’s Community Sport Hub Engagement Officer, and Victoria Galbraith, Active Stirling Physical Inclusion Officer.

The pair developed their idea through a Dragon’s Den style programme at Stirling Council called the Lens, which helps employees in large UK organisations bring forward transformative proposals.

Last year’s Stirling winner was Direct Funerals, inspired by Cemeteries Officer, Tam Rennie.

Having earned support from the Council, Christopher and Victoria’s dream became reality as Active Stirling, who delivers sport, physical activity and wellbeing services on behalf of the local authority, teamed up with two expert organisations in adapted cycling to deliver the programme – *FABB Scotland through their ‘Blazing Saddles’ project and *Forth Valley Disability Sport.

Potential has been met and exceeded

Christopher said: “Adapted cycling opportunities have been successfully delivered in other parts of Scotland through Blazing Saddles, and with Stirling’s tremendous existing cycling infrastructure, we knew there was huge potential here.

“That potential has been met and exceeded thanks to the enthusiasm, commitment and passion for cycling we have experienced from cycle leaders, partners, parents, support workers and most importantly, participants”

Life changing

Victoria said: “Bikes without Barriers has broken so many barriers to bring the joy of cycling to our disability community.

“This programme has been life changing for so many of the participants. It has given them the sense of freedom and exhilaration. The smiles and excitement I have witnessed throughout this pilot has proven we are making an impact in the best way possible."

Truly transformative

Convener of Stirling Council’s Community Planning and Regeneration Committee, Cllr Chris Kane said: “Christopher and Victoria’s dedication and skill in developing this innovative idea should be applauded.

“This is a fantastic example of staff using the Lens programme to deliver something truly transformative to people in Stirling and tailored to the specific needs of our communities.”  

The course is supported by eight trained volunteers of various ages, experiences and backgrounds, who have a passion to help others sample cycling. These ‘Cycle Leaders’ reported a rise in confidence in areas including safety, skills, knowledge, planning and preparation.

Rewarding

One of the Cycle Leaders, Danny Letford (67) from Bannockburn, said:  “I have taken great satisfaction in working with many people young and not so young in developing their cycling skills and coordination. It is rewarding to see the group’s confidence and delight from week to week, all while attempting to use equipment which is quite often out of their comfort zone.”

Vice Convener of the Community Planning and Regeneration Committee, Cllr Maureen Bennison said: “It was wonderful to see the adapted cycle programme in action and hear the positive feedback from participants and volunteers.

“Christopher and Victoria should be really proud for making this project a reality and bringing the proven benefits of cycling and active travel to people who previously felt excluded from this activity.”

The success of the scheme was helped by fostering positive partnerships with organisations, including Forth Valley Disability Sport, Riverbank Resource Centre, Stirling Active Travel Hub, Streets Ahead and PLUS.

Given the popularity of the programme, Christopher and Victoria are now exploring ways to expand it so more people can benefit from the cycling experience.

For more information on Bikes Without Barriers, head to the Active Stirling website

Background info and picture details:

Blazing Saddles is FABB Scotland’s mobile all ability cycling resource. It is supported by all national cycling organisations and Scottish Disability Sport. FABB Scotland is a small charity whose primary aim is to facilitate access and break barriers which promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities taking part in mainstream activities with family and friends.

Forth Valley Disability Sport are a charitable organisation that works with many agencies and partners to provide sporting opportunities to children, young people and adults with physical, sensory and learning disabilities in the Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Falkirk areas.

Pictured outside Forthbank Stadium are the participants, Cycle Leaders and other volunteers of Bikes Without Barriers outside, alongside Cllr Maureen Bennison (back, second from left) and Cllr Chris Kane (back, third from left) and Stirling Council’s Community Sports Hub Engagement Officer, Christopher McKenna. 

Cycling action pictures: (twin duo bike) - Michael Kemp (Blazing Saddles), Anthony Day; (side-by-side bike) - Craig Allen (volunteer), Michael Kemp (Blazing Saddles); (hand bike and solo)- Alex Norman (Cycle Leader), Danny Letford (Cycle Leader).