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Cycling for the homeless

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Cycling for the homeless aims primarily to increase levels of physical activity, through cycling, for people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. This project offers learn-to-ride, bike maintenance and led ride sessions at homeless shelters and hostels. The project will also recruit cycling and maintenance champions, who will receive further training so that they can help to encourage more people to get involved.

One benefit of this project is it moves the beneficiaries away from a sedentary lifestyle, especially as homeless people have higher rates than the general public of substance, smoking and alcohol abuse. These have been proven to have a negative effect on both mental and physical health and can lead to shorter life expectancy. Regular access to cycling is linked to prevention of non-communicable diseases, improvement of mental health and healthy ageing. Another benefit is that through cycling, a homeless persons engagement with the wider community increases, as well as their access to more mainstream activities, both of which help to bridge the gap and allow the beneficiaries to feel more a part of their local community.  

There are many barriers that exist for a homeless person to become involved in cycling and they are one of the hardest to reach and vulnerable target groups, due to their exclusion from mainstream society. It is important to be realistic of these barriers, such as financial, access, knowledge, confidence, excluding, and to be sensitive to the issues that they my face.

Learn-to-ride and maintenance sessions should be run once a week, per shelter/hostel to ensure participants stay engaged. Group led rides should also be organised once a month. Regular training should also be held for anybody wishing to be a cycling or maintenance champion.

Target audience and engagement

•    The key target audience are people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
•    Engagement is through posters and leaflets placed at various homeless shelters and hostels.
•    Targeted promotion through being present at these locations to talk to people to encourage them to attend; and through interactive taster sessions where people will be shown how to fix parts of a bike, given a chance to ride, and be informed about the programme – make sure you keep these events fun and as tailored as possible to individual’s needs!


•    Small to Large (20 - 120 beneficiaries) – depending on how many bikes you have.
•    Geographically- anywhere in London, as long as you are targeting homeless shelters, hostels or specific homeless charities.

Equipment needed

•    10-60 adult bikes of various size, depending on the scale of project you wish to run. Please note we would encourage you to have one bike shared with 2 participants, not only will this increase the number of people you can reach, but it can also ensure the bike stays in a better condition. Talk to local charities, police, shelters and hostels to see if they have any to donate.
•    Helmets of various sizes*       
•    Maintenance kit*
•    Basic spare bike parts*
*Ensure you have enough helmets, maintenance kits and spare parts for the size of project you are running.

Resources needed

•    Project Leader/Volunteer Coordinator:
-Oversee the project
-Attend and help at all the sessions and taster sessions
-Ensure all funding criteria and documentation is met (if required)
-Run risk assessment for safeguarding, injuries and also to identify any other concerns which may affect project delivery.
-The Project Lead should have the requisite level of CRB. Understand health and safety needs (preferably  First Aid trained)
•    Cycle and Maintenance Trainer:
-Run weekly learn-to-ride and maintenance sessions
-Must have the relevant qualifications
•    Cycle or Maintenance Champions:
-Attend sessions and help where needed
-Encourage people to attend sessions
•    Storage space:
-You will need somewhere to store bikes. Talk to hostels and shelters you are engaging with, see if they have any free storage you can use. Otherwise you can contact a local community centre, or perhaps another local business that has storage room. Your Council may be able to provide you with information on who to contact.
•    Refreshments:
-Tea, coffee and snacks at every session as a further incentive for people to attend.

Estimated project costs
Please note, these figures are based on a large project – 120 beneficiaries.

•    Bikes if different sizes – if possible have these donated!    £0 - £3,000 
•    Project Leader  (based on organising and attending 1 session per week)    £800
•    Marketing and communication    £200
•    Cycle helmets    £600
•    Cycling and Maintenance Instructor (based on one session per week)    £1,000
•    Bike locks    £800
•    Reflective equipment    £900
•    Lights    £1,000
•    Maintenance kit and spare parts    £500
•    Refreshments    £500

Top tips/key learnings

•    Consider wider engagement activities – social media, poster & flyers in the local shop, café, leisure centre, or train station to recruit champions and volunteers.
•    Try to keep the sessions fun!
•    Ensure you are sensitive to each beneficiaries needs and try to keep each sessions as tailored to each individual as possible.
•    Always have healthy, substantial refreshments, this is a good incentive to people to come.
•    It’s good to measure whether participants are more or less confident in riding a bike, or whether they are encouraged them to try riding bikes more. This can be done by a ‘hands up’ survey or with a questionnaire, where participants are asked to confirm or not, certain statements about their view of cycling.
•    Depending on the area, you could direct participants to free cycle confidence and maintenance courses – please check with your local council and organisations.

Maximising local contacts

•    Utilise networks to recruit participants or even get in kind support. (Homeless organisations and charities, homeless shelters and hostels, community centres, etc.).
•    Talk to local organisations and businesses to see what they can provide and donate.
•    You might find that a local shop or café is willing to provide water and snacks.
•    Engage with your council – they may be able to lend you equipment, help market the project and help secure storage space.