Leonard Cheshire Disability Breaks Down Barriers To Cycling

Wednesday 30th November 2016

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s ongoing development of an inclusive cycling scheme in Gloucestershire is proving hugely popular with disabled and non-disabled people alike and the charity is now calling on even more people to get on a bike.


The scheme started with Leonard Cheshire Disability residents at the Gloucestershire House service in Cheltenham attending regular inclusive cycling sessions in Wiltshire to help improve their physical and mental health.

However, rather than having to travel out of county for these, the charity decided to make the benefits of cycling available to Gloucestershire House’s wider community and organised off-road inclusive cycling taster sessions in the Forest of Dean. These proved so popular that they are now attended by up to 100 people at a time and the charity is also developing regular inclusive sessions at an athletics track in Gloucester.


Mary Clare Faulkner, the physiotherapist at Gloucestershire House who is helping to pioneer the Gloucestershire Wheels for All project said:


“The joy on people’s faces is wonderful to see. The sense of freedom participants experience means they can’t wait to have another go and as soon as one session is over, they ask when the next one will be.


“Cycling is a boost to overall aerobic and cardiovascular fitness but can also help with building confidence, reducing anxiety and depression, and improving mental well-being, weight-management, posture, balance, co-ordination, muscle strength, joint mobility and sleep patterns.


“Inclusive cycling gives disabled ex-cyclists the opportunity to get back to cycling independently or with their peers. It also allows family members to cycle with their disabled relatives and carers with their clients. It is an activity that enables people of different ages and abilities to participate alongside each other.”


Up until now, Gloucestershire Wheels for All has hired bikes from the Cycling Projects charity in Warrington or Get Cycling in York for each session. Now, thanks to funding from the Postcode Community Fund the project can start buying its own accessible bikes.


The team are not stopping there and want to raise more money so that greater numbers of disabled participants can enjoy the benefits of this outdoor exercise. Money raised will go towards even more bikes, equipment such as hoists, storage facilities, maintenance, insurance and training.


Those who have attended the taster sessions and tried out the special bikes have plenty to say about it. Gloucestershire House resident Sue Willis said:


“I find the exercise for my legs very good. I also enjoy going out into the Forest of Dean. It makes me feel happier and I get more out of life.”


Her enthusiasm was echoed by fellow resident Chris Mathias, who said:


“I like it very much. It allows people who are disabled to exercise and experience the countryside.”