By Andy Hirst, Special Correspondent
A charity set up to provide free bikes to people who can’t afford them has provided more than 200 cycles to NHS staff during the pandemic.
The bikes donated to the frontline health workers by Milnsbridge-based Streetbikes means some NHS staff have been able to cycle to work while others have used them to relax on their days off after long, gruelling and emotionally-draining shifts.
Streetbikes was founded in 2009 by Gill Greaves from Brockholes and has since recycled more than 12,000 bikes across Kirklees, mainly to people in need, the disabled, the vulnerable and those living in deprivation.
Gill, 63, said: “We gave a bike to one intensive care nurse and it kick-started her into a healthier lifestyle and she now also goes running and swimming.”
Streetbikes is committed to getting as many people to enjoy cycling as possible and believes it can be a great way to bond families together.
It also changes lives.
The Welcome Centre food bank in Huddersfield let Streetbikes know about a mum and her children who had fled from domestic violence and were living in the town. Gill gave them a bike each to help them bond as a family to overcome the trauma. The mum came from overseas so used her bike to attend English lessons which led to a job and she is now heading up an organisation … all in just a few years.
Streetbikes is now hosting pop-up bike fixing sessions across Huddersfield where people can get their bikes repaired for free.
The two main weekly events are at the running track at Spenborough Fitness Complex on Tuesdays from 10.30am to 2.30pm and on Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm. People can borrow bikes and helmets and then cycle on the running track or on the nearby Spen Valley Greenway and many people from Huddersfield travel over each week.
Gill said: “We have trikes and wheelchair bikes so people with disabled children or relatives can come along with them to join in the fun. It gives them an incredible feeling of freedom.
“We call them mixed ability sessions – people who are just learning to cycle are more than welcome – and it’s all about families cycling together.”
Gill’s sister, Susan, has learning difficulties including autism and uses a trike. She had a knee operation in 2019 and since then has lost well over 2 stones, mainly by cycling.
“Susan enjoys it so much she doesn’t realise she’s doing so much exercise,” said Gill.
Gill was working for Kirklees Council in 2009 and was co-chair of Kirklees Cycling Group when she realised there were very opportunities for women to go cycling so she set up a project to recycle a few bikes for woman to tie in with community cycling events and Streetbikes grew rapidly from there.
Over the years Gill has raised more than £1m for Streetbikes with £750,000 from the Lottery and £250,000 from other grants. She is now applying for more money from the Lottery.
Streetbikes collects donated bikes, ensures they are roadworthy and donates them to people who otherwise would struggle to afford one. The charity also organises family cycling, women only rides and bike mechanic training.
Streetbikes also works closely with partners Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority and is providing well-being cycling sessions for organisations including Third Sector Leaders Kirklees, an organisation which provides support for charities, social enterprises and community groups.
Gill is married to Dave who helped her to set up Streetbikes and they have five children and six grandchildren.
She said: “I started Streetbikes as I’m passionate about giving everyone whatever their ability, race, age or gender equal opportunities in life. The first lady I lent a bike to fosters adults with learning disabilities and all three of her foster sons have volunteered at the track at the mixed ability sessions.”
Streetbikes’ motto is: ‘Make friends, improve health and have fun.’
The reason Spenborough is used for the cycling sessions is that it goes along the Spen Valley Greenway, an award-winning walking and cycling route along former railway routes ranging from densely populated urban areas to fantastic countryside, a wildlife reserve and moorland views on an 8-mile route from Ravensthorpe to Bradford.
Find out more about the greenway at https://www.railwaypaths.org.uk/our-achievements/spen-valley-greenway/
For more on Streetbikes go to its website https://streetbikes.org.uk/ or its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=streetbikes%20cic
Streetbikes always needs more bikes. To donate an old bike or to let Streetbikes know you’ll be attending a session at Spenborough contact the charity on 01484 654530, mobile 07873 773417 or email email@example.com
* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.