Inclusive cycling at Ilkley’s Pop Up Cycle Hub: Meet Simon Hewitson and his daughter Alice

The project has been a huge success receiving glowing reviews from disabled people, their families, carers and our partner organisations

The LS29 Group for families of children with additional needs was founded in 2006 by a group of parents who wanted to improve the support available in the area for children with additional needs and their families.

Funding received in the second round of CityConnect’s community grant scheme has helped LS29 Group work with Outside the Box, a community café in Ilkley supporting people with learning disabilities, to provide an inclusive four month Pop-Up Cycle Hub in the town.

The Hub was aimed at encouraging people with disabilities aged 16 plus and their families and carers, to try cycling and even include it as part of their commute to work, placement or training.

Activities have included on and off-road skills sessions, race training at the Brownlee Centre, bike maintenance and one-to-one sessions, with a selection of adapted bikes on hand for people to use.

Tim Curtis, Project Lead and Special Olympics Team GB Cycling Coach, said: “Giving people a chance to try cycling for the first time, or to increase their skills and confidence on the bike, helps foster an increased sense of independence, which, in turn, can help people access training and work opportunities.

“The project has been a huge success receiving glowing reviews from disabled people, their families, carers and our partner organisations.

“As a result of the project, five disabled people now have the skills and confidence to commute on-road by bike twice a week, we’ve employed three people as staff, and four people are learning coaching skills and volunteer as ride leaders with us.

“In addition, three people have gone on to be selected for the Yorkshire and Humberside Special Olympic Cycling Team and they now attend mainstream training with elite competitors at the Brownlee Centre on Monday nights.

“Dozens of people of all ages have attended these sessions in all weather, coming back week after week, eager to learn more skills and to meet up with new friends.”

Simon Hewitson’s and his daughter, Alice, who attends the Lighthouse School in Leeds, are two of those people.

Simon said: “Alice has autism and also suffers from an inability to talk in public which makes life very difficult for her.

“She does very little physical exercise so this initiative led by Tim and the LS29 Group seemed like a great way of increasing Alice’s fitness levels.”

As well as attending the on-road skills session in Ilkley on Wednesday evenings, Alice also cycles at the Brownlee Centre and, with the help of Tim, trains with Ilkley Cycling Club.

Simon added: “Since starting this programme Alice has grown in confidence on her bike – she now uses clip in pedals and cycles on the road.

“Her fitness levels have improved and, although she doesn’t talk to anyone, I know Alice really enjoys the sessions as they enable her to feel part of a group and to be involved.

“The other students are really patient with her as they have realised she needs a little extra support and they have all accepted her and grown used to her not responding to things they say.”

Alice, who started cycling when she was 14-years-old with the help of Otley Cycling Club, said: “I enjoy cycling because it’s fun, it’s relaxing and it makes me happy.

“At first I was scared to cycle on the main roads around Ilkley, but I’m not now because there are people helping me.

“I’ve learnt how to use my gears properly, which has helped on the hills, and using clip in shoes is the best thing.”