The last 14 months have been a real learning curve for everyone – and that certainly includes us at Wheels for Wellbeing! Most importantly, it’s reminded us of the importance of creative thinking and adaptability, to ensure that the needs of our beneficiaries continued to be met. Here’s a snapshot of what we have been up to since the start of the pandemic – none of which would have been possible without our fantastic team of staff and volunteers and the unfailing support of generous funders and donors!
When we were forced to halt all of our cycling sessions in mid-March 2020, we quickly improvised a cycle loan scheme so that some of our Disabled participants could remain physically active, cycling from their own front doors during lockdown. Traffic-free residential streets and temporary cycling and walking infrastructure along main roads made this possible, and 10 people took up the offer of rehoming one of our cycles.
This was popular among children and adults alike (e.g. Edie & Lyndsay) and so, in an email to the whole team entitled ‘Madcap idea?’, our Director suggested we apply for funding to expand the idea and serve Disabled Londoners across the whole city. Since then, with the help of funding from Sport England and a partnership with fellow inclusive cycling provider Bikeworks, we have developed and are now in the pilot phase of our newest invention, and the inclusive answer to bicycle hire schemes: Wheels4Me London.
Showing further innovative spirit and refusing to remain idle whilst unable to run sessions, Wheels for Wellbeing looked for more ways to support the Covid-19 response effort during the first lockdown. This led us to join the BIA project, led by the Lewisham Irish Community Centre and in partnership with the Good Hope Café. We took on the role of delivering freshly-prepared, healthy meals to older and isolated residents across Lewisham – by cycle – every single Wednesday (and we are still doing this).
Our fantastic volunteers, coordinated by Session Manager Matt, have really loved taking part in the project; you can read the stories of Anna and Jane here. Plus, the project was announced as one of the Lewisham Mayor’s Award recipients, “for the valuable contribution within the borough’s community response to COVID-19”, which we are incredibly proud of the team for achieving!
Throughout the year, cycling has become hugely popular among Disabled and non-Disabled people alike. The numbers of calls and emails to us have been steadily mounting, especially after we were featured as part of Woman’s Hour Cycling Special on the May Bank Holiday!
Our Senior Administrator, Aleksandra, has been busy informing people based in and around south London of our inclusive cycling services, and referring them to other organisations if they’re based elsewhere. People have also increasingly reached out to enquire about buying an adaptive cycle or making adaptions to their existing cycle – we have added some answers on our website, and our Session Managers have kindly carried out additional online research for people.
…and that’s about it! It’s been a tremendously busy year, and our team of staff and volunteers have done a really fantastic job (if we may say so ourselves). We would also like to thank our funders such as Transport for London and the London Marathon Charitable Trust, without whom none of this would have been possible!