A mass cycle ride took place on the streets of Portsmouth yesterday to mark the start of Refugee Week. The event was organised by The British Red Cross and charity Cycling UK to highlight how giving refugees and asylum seekers access to bikes can help change their lives.
The event is part of Cycling UK's Big Bike Revival project, which seeks to refurbish unused bikes along with maintenance advice and training events to get people cycling again or for the first time.
Among those taking part in the mass ride was Omolara Ibrahim, an asylum seeker from Nigera who came to the UK two years ago and has now settled in Portsmouth. She initially learnt to ride a bike with Portsmouth Women’s Learn to Ride group, a Cycling UK Community Cycle Club run with the help of the British Red Cross.
Laura Hales, head of development for Cycling UK, said: “Having access to bicycle gives a person an active and inexpensive way to get around, whether that’s to work or to school or simply to be out and part of the community.
“Cycling UK exists to bring the benefits of cycling to as many people as possible, regardless of their background or ability, and it’s been brilliant to able to partner with the Red Cross on this worthwhile project and see such success.”
Project coordinator at the British Red Cross, Golum Chowdhury, said: “We take donated or unusable bikes, refurbish them and then train our service users in bicycle maintenance, riding and road safety.
“At the end of the training the participants are given the bike and safety equipment. Often, this is their only mode of transport so the bicycle can be a really important tool in helping them engage with many aspects of community life.
“It also helps improve their knowledge and skills, encourages exercise, improves mental health and is a social activity for those who are lonely and isolated. It’s has been a very successful project.”
The Big Bike Revival began in 2015 after research that showed around 42% of people in the UK own bikes but do not use them. The project aims to increase the number of people cycling and the number of short trips made by bike, by providing training, encouragement and helping people overcome their safety fears.
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