CarryMe Bikes is a community interest company (CIC) based in East London helping people take children and cargo by bike. Together with Hackney Family Cycling, CarryMe Bikes is running three projects, all included in the Family Cycling Project. The aim is to build participants’ confidence, knowledge and skills to be able to cycle as a family, both for fun and ultimately for transport.
Having small children can present challenges to getting around by bike, but the Family Cycling Project wants to make it easy and normal. Transport for London research in 2014 reported that 8% of people stopped cycling because they had children, and that many feared cycling on the busy roads of London. In addition, the cost of children’s cycling equipment is a barrier for many families. The Family Cycling Project uses different approaches to help overcome these obstacles.
The group’s Family Cycling Library, set up during 2016, lends out family cycling kit, giving parents the option to try out kit before deciding what to buy, or to borrow equipment for a family cycling outing. With the funding from Cycling Grants London, the Family Cycling Library has been boosted with a range of new items, giving more families access to the equipment they need.
The Library sessions take place once a month on Sundays during the warmer months, and are sometimes followed by a picnic and a family bike ride. Sometimes the Family Bike Rides are separate events with a dressing-up theme – Easter Bunny ride, Christmas Lights ride. Children of all ages join in, from babies sitting in cargo bikes, to tiny tots on balance bikes and primary-aged children on their own bicycles. They rides usually start from London Fields in Hackney, taking a route along back streets and quiet roads to another local park. The aim is to provide a safe environment where even the smallest children can be shepherded within a group of other cyclists, boosting the skills and confidence of families to take to the road on bikes.
The programme also includes Parent & Tot Cycling Sessions, which are held once a month at Victoria Park and London Fields during a weekday. In these sessions, parents can enjoy gentle exercise together with small children, overcoming the childcare barrier that many parents face. They are also supported by cycling instructors who help them brush up on their bike control skills.
The feedback from participants has been very positive: all have done more cycling after taking part, and many Library clients, who come from different parts of London such as Islington, Hackney and Westminster, said that if they hadn’t been able to borrow the items, they wouldn’t have been able to cycle.
“It’s the first time I’ve smiled all week. I just need to get out and do stuff with my daughter and this is brilliant. It’s the little things that can make your day.” – Betty, project participant
“My confidence increased in a week. It’s the start of a big adventure!” – Vanessa, project participant
The Hackney Family Cycling Project is currently aiming to recruit more volunteers and to encourage them to become involved as ride marshals. In addition, although they have already received donations of kit above and beyond what they expected, they would like to establish a wider donation system to expand the reach of the project even further.