BY: Michelle Liew
With the issue of climate change being at the centre of attention, many cities have opted for much greener habits in a bid to shed some light in ways to tackle such issues.
London is an example of a city which has been incorporating greener options such as cycling to tackle such issues. With its cycle superhighways and popular bike hire schemes, it has brought great attention to putting the wheels in motion for a pedal-powered revolution.
Despite the effort, many still lack the means to get into riding.
A pop-up bicycle library in Tower Hamlets, which is London’s most deprived borough, aims to address that. It launched in Polar recently, where it transformed an empty shop into a ‘cycle hub’ so that children and adults living locally can borrow bikes for free.
Chrisp Street Community Cycles also provides free cycle advice, free bike repairs and guided rides to help people build their confidence.
This is in conjunction of a partnership between the environmental charity Hubbub, Poplar Harca housing association, and the walking and cycling charity Sustrans. The objective is to break down the barriers that prevent people from cycling in London. This includes access to equipment and concerns about safety.
“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,” said Babu Bhattacherjee, director of communities and neighbourhoods at Poplar Harca.
“But a lack of access, storage and confidence can all be barriers in getting people in Poplar on to bikes. That’s why initiatives such as this, that give opportunities for residents to borrow and learn about bikes, are essential if we want to encourage more cycling in our communities.”
The bicycle library was inspired by other cycling projects in London, including Cycle Sisters. It is a charity that helps Muslim women find the confidence to get on a bike. Research has found that women, particularly those from minority backgrounds, are less likely to see cycling as an option for them and their families.
“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. The cycle experts there make sure his bike is adjusted for his fit and comfort. Now, when my son rides his bike, kids are looking, admiring. I wish for other kids to do it,” said Tower Hamlets resident Sangeeta.
“For me, being able to book free cycling lessons, learn about bike safety and maintenance has been game-changing. If you’re rusty like me, you can learn to ride.”
The UK government is aiming for half of all journeys in towns and cities to be cycled or walked by 2030, as set out in its Decarbonising Transport report.