A new bike repair and servicing initiative is building on the strength of a successful cycle safety scheme run in various locations throughout West Cork, writes Brian Moore
CHILDREN across West Cork, many of whom have never had the opportunity to own their own bike, are now joining their friends in a new Bike for Life project.
It all began earlier this year when the West Cork Development Partnership (WCDP), in conjunction with Skibbereen-based cycle training group, Cycle Sense, introduced the ‘Sprocket Rocket’ scheme.
‘Sprocket Rocket is all about teaching kids to cycle,’ Kathryn Kingston of the WCDP said. ‘The aims are to teach road safety, cycling basics and to get kids, some of who have never cycled or indeed owned a bike before, out and about safely.’
Sprocket Rocket has proved very successful with young people taking part in the scheme across West Cork. Indeed, for sisters, Lauren (18) and Meghan O’Brien (13) from Bantry, it has opened up a world they had never experienced previously.
‘When I was younger, I never really learned how to ride a bike,’ Lauren said. ‘I have dyspraxia and DCD (Developmental Coordination Disorder) and this has a lot to do with balance so I would just have to watch my friends on their bikes.
When the opportunity to take part in Sprocket Rocket came along, at first I thought, I’m 18 I can’t join in with kids learning how to cycle but, I decided to give it a go and now I’m delighted I did.’
Lauren learned how to cycle and took to the road with the rest of the group – a moment that unlocked a whole new world for herself and her sister.
‘We learned how to look after the bikes, how important it is to wear safety gear, and how to enjoy cycling everyday,’ Lauren said. ‘But since the scheme ended we haven’t been able to keep up with the cycling as we don’t have bikes at the moment.’
For Lauren’s sister Meghan, Sprocket Rocket was more than just learning how to cycle and look after a bike. The scheme allowed her to experience her community in a different way, a way that helped her cope with anxiety.
‘I loved Sprocket Rocket,’ Meghan said. ‘Before the scheme I never felt comfortable going out but it got me out and I enjoyed it. I would encourage people to take part, you make new friends and it’s great to be able to go places with my sister.’
Now, a new project is about to get underway aimed at building on the success of Sprocket Rocket.
‘The Bike for Life project is the next step in giving kids, teenagers and adults cycling confidence,’ Kathryn said. ‘Now with the help once more of the team at Cycle Sense, we want to encourage kids to see their bikes as an everyday part of their lives.’
The WCPD has linked with Cork Community Bikes, who repair pre-loved bikes, and now have access to 20 bikes which, will be ready to go after some small repairs.
‘We will organise that a group in Clonakilty will take these bikes, repair them and get them to kids that may never have had a bike before,’ Kathryn continued. However, we are in need of bikes for the groups in Bantry and Dunmanway.
And we are ready to take delivery of any bikes that are no longer needed no matter what condition they are in.’
The WCDP has organised people who will repair any bikes that are donated.
‘Bike for Life is not only about cycling safely. The project is also about learning to look after your bike,’ Kathryn said. ‘We will show you how to maintain it, fix punctures, check the brakes and everything else associated with owning your own bike. These are life skills really, skills many of us have forgotten or have never learnt before.’
So now the Bike for Life team are looking for your help. They need old bikes. Bikes that may be hidden away, all but forgotten, in the back of the garage or shed. Bikes that could, with a little help and care take to the roads once more.
‘We will organise collection of any bike that is donated,’ Kathryn said. ‘All repairs will be done by members of the Clonakilty Bicycle Festival, Clonakilty Community Repair Workshop, Cycle Sense and other volunteers. We’ll do a pick-up service, with the kind support of the Better Energy Warmer Home Team in here West Cork.’
If you have a bike you would like to donate to the Bike for Life project you can contact Kathryn Kingston, West Cork Development Partnership on 087-9876390 or email [email protected]’