15 June, 2022
Metro blind sport has been cycling "side by side" for five weeks and show no signs of slowing down!
Metro Blind Sport is a London based charity, creating fun, accessible sport and physical activity opportunities for blind and partially sighted individuals of all ages and abilities.
For 5 weeks now, every Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Metro Blind Sport have been taking members, friends and family out on the Bikeworks Ride Side-by-Side e-cycle around London, primarily the west of London.
Each week we have welcomed new riders and we have been pleased to have people returning to cycle week after week. So why are we having great success with this project? Firstly, the concept is straightforward, the trained cycle pilot will pick people up from their requested location (home or elsewhere) and take them on a journey around the local parks and quiet back streets, provide audio description throughout, and return them back to where they want to go to. Just so simple!
Not only is it a simple concept, but it is also simple to take part as well. Participants can choose to pedal as much or as little as they want as all the pedals are independent of each other. Plus, the cycle is an e-cycle, so we have battery power when we need it. If you really wanted, you could simply relax and enjoy the fresh air!
Anil Kanani, Metro Blind Sport member, has been along every week and says,
‘I have always wanted to cycle, but being visually impaired made that impossible, so I thought, until Metro Blind Sport made the impossible possible. I have cycled around Wormwood Scrubs Park, Kensington Park and Gardens, and Hyde Park as well as some of the streets of London. It is a fantastic experience and good for my health and wellbeing. The two pilots, Nikki and Richard, I have cycled with are brilliant; they describe where we are going and point out places of interest. They have also given me the opportunity to pilot the cycle, for a short while, in a safe and controlled environment. If you are not sure about trying, I would recommend you give it a go. If you are anything like me, you will be hooked on it.’
So far, we have cycled in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Ravenscourt Park, Little Wormwood Scrubs, by the Thames and explored the back streets of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham.
We certainly stand out as the cycle looks quite different to a standard cycle. We have been receiving waves and comments from people in every location we have been. We have even been approached whilst out and about by enthusiastic family and friends wishing to find out how their visually impaired relatives could get involved!
Another clear advantage of this programme is about it being social. The cycle can take 3 people at the same time, along with the pilot. It can be social because you can organise with Metro Blind Sport to come along with friends and family. Similarly, you can come alone and meet other participants joining for the first time. Already we have seen friendships happening and people booking in to return at the same time, with the same people each week.
Marvel Opara came along on her birthday with her two sons,
‘It is really nice to sit at the front and feel like I’m in charge of the bike. It’s a wonderful way to travel. Talking, laughing and being sung happy birthday too! It was so much fun, and I would recommend it to everyone!’
Simple, social but also practical. Ride Side-by-Side has also been used as an alternative free taxi service and that is fine with us. Participants can choose to go shopping, go to a bank, visit a friend, or go to the temple on the cycle. All of these have happened in the first 5 weeks and they have happened whilst getting some gentle exercise at the same time.
So, what’s next? Well, we will certainly be looking forward to welcoming people to return and have another go as well as opening up opportunities to blind and partially sighted people that want to give it a try for the first time. As the evenings get warmer, we will try some sessions in the evening after regular working hours and might even broaden the locations where we cycle to give more opportunities for people to take part. As news spreads about the project on our social media channels and by word of mouth then I’m sure the demand will increase, already enquiries are rising every week.
Nikki Ray is the Project Manager for the Ride Side by Side project with Bikeworks, she says,
‘I’ve been having such a great time being a cycle pilot in our collaboration with Metro Blind Sport. Over the weeks we have been able to diversify our journeys to ride alongside the River Thames and take participants to visit the bank or the temple. We want as many people to be able to experience the joy of going out for a cycle, so if you haven’t yet I really encourage you to sign up and come along to try out our unique side-by-side cycles. This cycle is like no other, instead of a saddle you are sitting on a padded chair next to someone else that you can chat to, so come and join us for a relaxing cycle.’
This project has certainly provided something new for Metro Blind Sport members and friends. There are no catches, no charges, and just an opportunity to get together with others and do as little or as much pedalling as you want to. If you feel like giving it a try, then get in contact with us. You just might become a regular rider like many others have already!
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