On the 12th December 2014, one of the legacy projects of hosting the Tour de France Grand Départ began; with the aim of giving every child in the county free access to a bike.

The Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme is well on its way to achieving this goal and today, the scheme's third birthday, seems like a perfect time to take a look back at some of this wonderful initiative's achievements to date.

The first bike library to be set up was in the city where Yorkshire's love affair with cycling really began, Leeds. To celebrate the launch of the Fearnville Bike Library in 2015, world class cyclist and Tour de Yorkshire women's race winner Lizzie Armitstead went out to visit and see the ground-breaking scheme up close.

In 2015, the Bike Libraries scheme began its partnership with another legacy of the Tour de France, the Tour de Yorkshire. This partnership began with the scheme sponsoring the men's sprinter's jersey and progressed into them becoming the naming partner for Stage Three of the Tour that started in Middlesbrough and finished in Scarborough. The libraries were promoted across the entire three-day event with children's races, face painting, smoothie bikes and games becoming a mainstay of the race since then.

Before the 2017 edition of the Tour de Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries hit an important milestone. Tour de Yorkshire 2016 Champion, Thomas Voeckler, who would ride in his final race on British soil just a day later delighted the children at Richmond Hill Primary School by donating the 5,000th bike. Voeckler was also joined by Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme and Sir Gary Verity. Richmond Hill was the first school to open as a bike library and has gone on to help hundreds of disadvantaged children to ride bikes.

The Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme was recently recognised on an international level too, becoming the first UK winner of a Peace and Sport award. The awards are held annually and recognise organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to peace, dialogue and social stability in the world - through sport. 
The major objective is to make Yorkshire the first place in the world where everybody, regardless of circumstance, will have free access to a bike. With 62 donation stations, 5,500 bikes donated, 47 bike libraries and over 51,000 opportunities to ride a bike so far it is clear that the scheme is on its way to achieving its goals.

Success Stories
This scheme is ambitious and the goals were set knowing that the Yorkshire public would embrace the scheme and help it to succeed. Throughout the first three years of the journey the initiative has had support in all corners of the county and with this some fantastic stories. 
There has been great pickup through the media and has seen the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries featured on BBC Breakfast and alongside Ben Fogle on Countrywise.

Here are some of the many heartwarming stories that have come about thanks to this wonderful project.

To the passer-by, R-evolution could just be a normal bike workshop - tools stacked neatly in drawers, bikes perched on racks ready to be fixed, steaming cups of tea stood waiting to be drunk, and in the centre of it all, a mechanic quietly working on some dodgy brakes that need a little fine tuning.
But delve a little deeper and you'll see this is no ordinary bike workshop, and no ordinary mechanic.
Turn the clocks back a few years and Andy - the mechanic - was in and out of prison, struggling to break free from the revolving prison door and repeat offending. For ten years he was constantly in trouble with the police, never getting a job or achieving any qualifications.
However, the launch of a new Yorkshire Bank Bike Library at Humber Prison at the start of 2015 heralded the beginning of a new chapter of his life. Through the bike library, prisoners and ex-offenders are taught how to repair bikes, giving them new skills, increasing their confidence and helping to reduce reoffending. The bikes are then made available for hire to children and families who don't have their own.
Andy found that R-evolution gave him a second chance and the work he was doing was beneficial to the scheme but also allowed him to gain new skills and reinvent himself.

"Since starting at R-evolution over a year ago, I haven't been back to prison, and I really don't want to go back in. The guys here have really helped me - if it wasn't for them I would probably be back in prison."

After hearing about the scheme in the news, Chris Armstrong, who teaches 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 started the BeCycling Bike Library in Bingley and has had some really great successes.

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.

Richmond Hill
Richmond Hill Primary was the venue for the donation of the 5,000th bike and has been a proud host of a bike library since the beginning of 2016; the first school to become a bike library. Nathan Atkinson is the headteacher here and one of the biggest advocates of the scheme. 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. At one time break ins were rife in what has been described as one of the most deprived areas of the country, however since the scheme has become known on a wider scale, it has been fully embraced and no more break ins have occurred.

In just three years, the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme has achieved an enormous amount, this wouldn't be possible without the support of sponsors, stakeholders and the community spirit that Yorkshire is famed for. The scheme continues to go from strength to strength, and the ambitious goal of giving everyone in the county free access to a bike becomes more and more achievable with each passing day.


6 years ago
Written by Ama Butler

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