Volunteering on your bike is a great way to introduce people to both cycling and volunteering. It empowers people by giving them the confidence to cycle and by meeting local people, whilst also helping contribute to social change within communities through the free services and a greater sense of ownership. The aim of this project is to form a network of volunteers from a range of different communities, ethnicities, backgrounds, ages and cycling skills, who will undertake various tasks for free. There will be both regular and irregular volunteers, depending on people’s availability. It is important that anyone who wishes to participate is given the opportunity.
There are a number of ways volunteering can be carried out with bikes, for example through the collection and delivery of goods. Items to be moved include food and drink, toys, books, clothes, electrical equipment etc. These can be delivered to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, charity shops, events, elderly homes, libraries, hospitals, orphanages etc. Suppliers will be local organisations and businesses, who will collaborate on this project.
The project should target those who do not cycle regularly or at all - either because they never learnt how to ride a bike or lack the confidence to start again. Ideally these should make up at least half of the volunteer network. Regular cycle confidence and basic maintenance classes should be held to recruit these new cyclists.
Some of the added benefits of this project are improving people’s health and wellbeing, providing work experience and growing the skillset of the participants.
Volunteering opportunities should be held at least 20 days per year. Each session will vary in length depending on the number of items that need to be moved and the number of volunteers who are available.
Target audience and engagement
• The key target audiences are lapsed cyclists, women, minority ethnic audiences and deprived or unemployed people, all from the local community who are looking to improve their cycling skills and can offer their time for free
• Engagement is through social media, schools, local volunteer services/organisations and cycling groups
• Posters and flyers, available both at events and for targeted promotion, help to spread the word by traditional methods
• In order to engage and connect with the volunteer network, once this is established, regular newsletters to show the great work, and group chat systems (i.e. WhatsApp) to inform people of upcoming volunteering opportunities
• Medium to large (50-100 participants)
• Geographically - anywhere there are opportunities to volunteer!
• 3-4 bike trailers for large items or large quantities of items to be moved
• 2-3 bikes of various sizes to accommodate for volunteers who do not have a bike
• Helmets of various sizes
• Maintenance kit
• Basic spare bike parts
• Project Leader/Volunteer Coordinator:
-Oversee the project
-Ensure regular opportunities are offered to participants to volunteer by speaking with local contacts
-Ensure volunteers are attending any sessions they sign up to and all new participants are introduced properly to the programme
-Attend and help at all the volunteer sessions – where not possible to attend, ensure that a regular volunteer is attending
-Ensure all funding criteria and documentation is met (if required)
-Run risk assessment for safeguarding, injuries and to identify any other concerns which may affect project delivery.
-The Project Lead should have the requisite level of CRB and understand health and safety needs (preferably First Aid trained)
• Cycle Trainer:
-Run regular cycle confidence and maintenance sessions for new participants
-Must have the relevant qualifications
-Attend volunteer events and help to collect and deliver various items
-Help any new participants
• Storage space:
-You will need somewhere to store bikes. This can be at a 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.
-Tea, coffee and snacks at every session, as a thank you for volunteers and time for socialising and networking
NB: If you do not have the funds to hire a Cycle Trainer, you could train the Volunteer Coordinator, or a handful of the regular volunteers so that they can conduct these sessions.
Estimated project costs
• Bike trailers (£250 per trailer) £750 - £1,000
• Bikes of different sizes (£200 per bike) £600 - £800
• Storage £500
• Cycle Instructor (Optional) £1,000
• Cycle Confidence Training (Optional) £0 - £500 (depending of local offers)
• Bike Maintenance Training (Optional) £0 - £500 (depending of local offers)
• Helmets £100
• Maintenance kit and spare parts £150
• Project Manager/Volunteer Coordinator £2,000 - £3,000
• Flyers and posters £100
• Refreshments £200
Top tips/key learnings
• Consider wider engagement activities – social media, posters and flyers in local shops, cafés, leisure centres, or train stations
• Ensure your volunteer network is large enough to account for people’s availability
• Make sure you do not have too many volunteers turn up to each opportunity, as this can lead to people feeling under-utilised which may stop them from participating in the future. So, make sure you tell people if you already have enough volunteers for one event
• Try to keep the sessions fun, remember these people are offering their time to help for free!
• Always encourage participants to come for some refreshments after helping, this will help them to form relationships and will make them more likely to keep volunteering
• It’s good to measure whether participants are more or less confident in riding a bike, or whether they feel encouraged 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. (Volunteer organisations and local centres, places of worship, community centres, schools, etc.)
• Talk to local charities and organisations to arrange regular deliveries of goods
• 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 a space
If you decide to run your own version of this project in your community, please email us at email@example.com. We love to hear that we are inspiring people to walk and cycle.