Wheels for All: A student’s perspective

13 March 2019

Archie KeenArchie Keen, a final year Marketing Student at Gloucestershire University, shares his thoughts after a visit to our inclusive cycling project.

During a student internship at Tomcat UK, which provides specialist trikes for disabled people, I had the chance to see a great project in action. I went along to the Forest of Dean for one of the many cycle centre days put on by Leonard Cheshire’s Gloucestershire Wheels for All.

Initiatives such as this offer great opportunities for both adults and children who may have physical or learning disabilities. There’s a vast array of different trikes on offer to fit the needs of as many people as possible. All of the trikes can be tried and tested multiple times by everyone taking part.

Firstly, it is almost immediately noticeable how there is a community atmosphere. Everybody is happy to stop and chat to others, give advice or offer a hand if needed. This is not restricted to just Leonard Cheshire’s Gloucestershire Wheels for All; the entirety of the cycle centre is the same. In addition to this, there is a wide range of differing abilities, different bikes and different ages.

One minute you’ll see a group of teenage boys showing off their latest tricks, closely followed by a five-year-old flying down the path several yards ahead of their parents.

A man and a woman sitting in an adapted tricycle with a volunteer standing in front of them

The combination of atmosphere and variety makes for a perfect setting for the trikes to be tried and tested by those with disabilities.

No one is the same at these cycle centre days, nobody’s bikes are the same. Nobody stands out as ‘different’ and this struck me as a superb chance for those with disabilities to have a real opportunity to test out some potential options for them.

‘It’s so nice… It’s just perfect, isn’t it?! All sorts of options. It’s just brilliant!’

Great variety

As mentioned previously, there is a great variety of people attending these events. Being half-term in the local area on the day I attended, there were a large number of younger children there.

It was great to see so many young kids getting away from iPads, tablets and consoles and out riding, getting active and enjoying the outdoors. Not only that, their reaction and opinions of the trikes was brilliant and so refreshing.

They couldn’t believe how cool the trikes were and were desperate to have a look and a ride on one.

Two people in an adapted tricycle cycling away from the camera

Ultimately, going forward these young children will see the trikes as a norm of cycling centres and if anything will be surprised and disappointed if the trikes are not in attendance.

This promotes inclusive cycling and will hopefully build a foundation of understanding equality for this generation as they grow into the adults of tomorrow’s world.

‘There’s not a lot of fun activities we can all do together, so this really helps us to do active things as a family.’

Final thoughts

A final thought from me on the great work done by the guys working with Leonard Cheshire’s Gloucestershire Wheels for All. They are there all day, offering a friendly face and are more than happy to help everyone, whatever their need or disability.

This was great to see and from an outside point of view it really made those coming to trial the trikes a lot more comfortable and confident.

It must help a great deal and remove any nerves or concerns that the riders, or their carers, may have upon testing the trikes.

As well as this, a special mention to Pedalabikeaway, who originally started as a company providing opportunities for cyclists of traditional two-wheel bikes.

They then branched out and introduced the trikes to their centre to increase the inclusivity of their events and prevent any discrimination occurring.

A man sitting in an adapted tricycle with three volunteers leaning over the bike

The fact that those with any disability can now partake in days like these with everyone else, whether it be their peers or family, is amazing to see and the joy and happiness it brings to everyone is infectious.

A further point that should be expressed is the great work and help that Tomcat provide for these days.

Offering their trikes to be used throughout the day gives greater variety to the choices on offer and as well as this, gives the potential for more and more people to come and have a go.

The help that the Tomcat employees offer is vital as well. The expert knowledge clearly goes along way.

There is a real sense of gratitude from clients and carers for the opportunity to talk to a specialist in this sector face to face, and gather all the information they need in order to make the next steps.

It was really great to see a genuine relationship building, from business to consumer, that did not consist of any corporate selling undertones.

‘Finding things he likes to do can be so difficult, but he really loves this.’

I would highly recommend this experience to anyone looking to get active, no matter what physical or learning disability they may have.

Everyone is catered for perfectly and the atmosphere of the whole day is brilliant for everyone in attendance.

Find out more about our Wheels For All project and how you can get involved: leonardcheshire.org/wheelsforall

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