Life Cycle UK

Award amount: £22,500

Organisation: Life Cycle UK

Silver Cyclists

The Charity

Life Cycle UK, based in Bristol, has been transforming lives through cycling since 1999. Life Cycle’s work is underpinned by the belief that cycling is an inherently simple, safe and accessible activity. They offer practical, targeted support to individuals with disabilities, mental health illnesses, offenders, isolated older people and disadvantaged young people through a range of award-winning “Inclusive Cycling Projects”.

The need

58% of all older people in Bristol are overweight or obese. Many suffer from chronic pain or reduced mobility due to a loss of core strength caused by inactive lifestyles. Moreover, one in five older people see family, friends or neighbours less than once a week. Yet older adults who continue to do exercise appear to live longer, have lower risk of disability, stay self-sufficient for longer and are less likely to feel isolated.

The project

Silver Cyclists is an annual programme of supportive group bike rides for over-55’s, enabling them to get outdoors, increase their fitness and meet new people. A typical ride, led by an experienced ride leader and supported by friendly volunteers, takes around three hours and always includes a tea stop where participants take a rest and socialise, helping to combat isolation and loneliness. Routes are specially designed to show older people how to access nearby facilities by bike using quiet cycle ways. All rides are free and personal circumstances are considered when supporting participants to take part. For example, bikes are lent to people who don’t have one, nervous cyclists are offered free lessons with a qualified cycle instructor and for those less physically able, an electric bike is offered for use.

Life Cycle UK was awarded a three-year grant in 2016 and has gone on to support 318 older individuals to take part in the Silver Cyclists programme. Together they logged 1,481 attendances at group events.

Group activities consist of three key areas:

  • Group cycle rides, as described above.
  • Coffee mornings – at the request of older riders, Life Cycle UK run monthly volunteer-led coffee mornings, which give participants the chance to cycle to town, get together and socialise outside of the group cycle rides.
  • ‘Self-Led’ rides – due to over-subscription to the group cycle rides, Life Cycle UK gave Ride Leader training to a few of the regular, confident older riders so that they could lead additional rides in their local area, on a voluntary basis. 70 older people have now “graduated” from the group cycle rides to join ‘Self-Led’ rides.

 Is it working?

User feedback consistently shows that participating in Life Cycle UK’s group activities results in older people experiencing positive benefits in multiple ways. In the latest rider survey results showed that:

  • 76% of older people feel fitter and healthier after joining
  • 91% report a positive difference to their social life
  • 94% report a positive effect on their mental health

“The rides have totally changed my lifestyle: I moved from rural Cornwall to the city three years ago after a bereavement. As a widow it has given me social opportunities when rediscovering myself in a new place”

“I suffer from depression and osteoarthritis. Cycling keeps me mobile and helps pain management…meeting the group keeps me hopeful and socially active.”

“I don’t drive – getting cycling again has opened doors for me on many levels. I can easily get to my kids houses and don’t rely on lifts or taxis. I feel fitter and have an increased sense of well being. It has given me a new lease of life!”

Life Cycle UK was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of the way they embed volunteers from the local community in their work.