Nathan Atkinson is the Headteacher of Richmond Hill Primary School in Leeds and is the proud host to one of the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries.
Since opening at the beginning of 2016 the Richmond Hill Bike Library has gone from strength to strength with a host of inspiring stories to share. When Nathan first saw funding advertised he knew that it was a scheme that he was extremely interested in getting involved with. Nathan has a passion for cycling, a passion that was intensified when the grandest ever Grand Départ of the Tour de France took place in Yorkshire in 2014 and he is keen to continue that legacy by bringing access to cycling to the local community.
The first time that Richmond Hill applied for funding, they were unsuccessful, but that didn't deter Nathan from being involved in the scheme. He went along to the Fearnville Bike Library launch and spoke to the Bike Libraries team there, set up a face to face meeting, spoke about what he felt the school could offer and then put a successful application together. Richmond Hill became the first school to open as a Yorkshire Bank Bike Library.
Bikes can be loaned for a period of days or on a long-term basis and families have made effective use of the library. Richmond Hill is based in a diverse community and a lot of its residents are new to the country. This means that the last thing that people have access to in this area is a bike and the library helps to remedy this.
Nathan, although he is the Headteacher, has really embraced the scheme and you will find him on his hands and knees every Tuesday and Friday reattaching chains and making sure that all the bikes are safe to ride before they are taken off the premises. Nathan states that he has seen both children and adults alike using bikes from the library to travel to work and school; with a lot of families using the bikes to travel together. Not only is the use of the bikes aiding with exercise in families, but also with allowing families to share the experience and spend more time together. It is also allowing families to save money on travel on their daily commutes to work and school.
One family that Nathan has dealt with was from Eritrea and only arrived in the UK in October 2015. The bikes that they were able to borrow from the Bike Library supported the children with getting to school on time and, due to organised rides, helped them to integrate themselves into the community really quickly. Community is a term that crops up a lot when talking about Richmond Hill and the locals have really rallied behind the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library scheme. Donations have come from a range of different methods, direct to Nathan, to Bike Library Donation Stations and through the work's cycling scheme run at the school.
Chris believes that his pupils would benefit from adding cycling to the curriculum and plans to do so as much as he can in the near future. Not only does Chris want his students to be able to ride a bike safely but also to be able to maintain and repair them. This would involve checking the brakes and repairing punctures as well as teaching children to be street smart when cycling too. Chris aims to work with Jeremy at Middleton to come into school and give maintenance lessons. He also states that a lot of staff members have embraced his ideas too and get involved with the Bike Library as best they can - with local bicycle rides being organised as rewards for hard work in school.
It is not just the reward of cycling activities that has helped pupils with their learning either, one child that had never been in formal education before and struggled with settling into traditional learning methods, took a spelling test whilst on a bicycle and he got a much higher mark. The influx of bicycles into the school because of the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library has allowed teachers to use alternative and creative ways to teach their pupils. One of these ways was through a project that was set up with a company called Cyclops, which required pupils to use bicycles to power a Scalextric and a bubble machine. Another moving story from the school is that of a child that went to Richmond Hill not even knowing what a chair was, he is now riding a bike library bicycle to and from school. However, the boy's family are considering changing schools because it is too far for the child to ride on his own so Richmond Hill are looking to equip his father with a bike so that he can ride to school with him.
It took a while for Richmond Hill to get set up and running as a Bike Library but since opening it has truly been embraced by the community and continues to grow. Richmond Hill is one of the most deprived areas in the country and there used to be break ins to the pod where the bicycles are kept but now that the scheme has been publicised, people realise that borrowing a bike is really easy and accessible to all and there has been no further break ins.
Nathan believes that the scheme is going to inspire the next generation of cyclists and wants all schools to follow in Richmond Hill's footsteps:
"I'd strongly encourage every school to get involved and host a bike library."
Nathan, and a lot of other Yorkshire residents were inspired by the Grand Depart, and the continued growth of cycling in Yorkshire with the annual Tour de Yorkshire, Bike Hubs and Yorkshire Bike Bank Libraries means that the passion for cycling shows no signs of slowing down.