Chris Armstrong from BeCycling is the proud host of one of the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries having set up in Bingley around a year ago.
Chris is an experienced leisure cyclist based in West Yorkshire and is a Cycling National Standards Accredited Instructor. With many miles under his belt, it would be fair to assume that Chris had been cycling since he was a child himself and wanted to give other children the chance to enjoy cycling from as early an age as possible.
However, Chris only started cycling in his 40s, wishing to lose some weight and get a little healthier, he started out with a daily inner city commute. After, in his own words, ‘surviving' the experience, he fell in love with cycling and it wasn't long before he was passing on what he had learnt to other people.
Chris' coaching began at his child's primary school, starting an after school cycling club and when he was asked about doing more, he accepted, trained as an Activity Coach with British Cycling and began to deliver cycle training sessions to local youngsters in the Bingley area. Chris found that there was a market and demand for both playground and on-road training and after becoming an accredited instructor, quit his day job and began teaching Bikeability courses in places such as Huddersfield, Rochdale, Bradford and Manchester.
Chris is the first to admit that he knows from personal experience how hard it is to take those first steps into cycling and has the skills and experience to share and help people get started. It's at this point that the Bike Library comes in and helps him with this quest.
After hearing about the scheme in the news, Chris, who teaches a lot of his cycling classes in economically deprived areas, saw an opportunity to help people without access to a bike, have the ability to do so. Having already restored some bikes himself to hire out, Chris states that all of his other bikes have come from donations, either directly to the lock-up garage in which the library is based or even sometimes, in the street.
The local community has really embraced the scheme and Chris is loaning bikes and teaching cyclists ranging from absolute beginners to people looking for a greater understanding about road safety. All in all, Chris believes that cycling is a vital life skill, with similar benefits to swimming. He is also an advocate for the social aspect of cycling, mentioning how it can bring people together when they share this activity as a common interest.
During his time with the Bike Library, Chris has been moved on more than one occasion. One story he tells is that of two brothers who had severe autism, aged 9 and 11. The boys' mother was desperate for her children to learn to ride a bicycle, but having been to lessons elsewhere and never really taken to it, they came to Chris.
Chris taught the brothers on recycled bikes and not only are they now proficient, but regularly attend a cycling club. In addition to this, through the AWARE library at Addingham, Chris helped to teach another autistic child to ride and the child's mother commented that she never thought that she would see the day that her son was riding on his own. From here Chris has developed a reputation for teaching cycling skills to children with special needs using bikes from the library to do so. He has also seen comments over social media stating how good the Bingley Bike Library was at loaning bikes and helping youngsters to learn how to ride.
The Bingley Bike Library has around 60 bikes available for loan and offers:
• Recycled bikes donated to the library for others to use
• Loans of bikes to children in schools who are doing their Bikeability training
• Loans of bikes to individuals
• ‘Dr Bike' sessions in schools and at their cycle in the park events to give your bike an MOT
• Maintenance sessions so you can learn the basics
If you've always wanted to cycle but never had the opportunity, then Chris Armstrong at BeCycling can teach you exactly what you need to know to enjoy riding a bicycle.
Bicycles can be expensive but with the Bingley Bike Library, they are now accessible by anyone who wants to enjoy this great activity.