Cycle of Life

Over the next ten years it’s inevitable that cities will change drastically. We’ll no longer be able to rely on cars and public transport to travel – cycling and walking will be the new norm. Cycle of Life’s Ibe Hayter realises a radical new approach is required to tackle the social inequalities in mobility, health, emissions and socio economic status in the city/region – as well as the other barriers that prevent people from confidently choosing to cycle. As the world we live in changes, it’s vital that people aren’t left behind.

“I enjoyed cycling with my father as a child – it was all about roaming freely and going where you want to go. I tried to pass this on to my own children,” he says. “But I found that they didn’t enjoy it as much, as there wasn’t a cycling culture in my diverse neighbourhood.

“I trained up and worked as a cycle instructor, running cycling projects. I remember one of the instructors I worked alongside at a school telling a young Somali student that she would have to take her headscarf off to put on a helmet or she would not be allowed to ride. I felt she was being forced to choose between her identity and riding a bike, which was unfair.

“Many of the children we trained at schools lived in my area, although none of the instructors did,” Ibe continues. “After completing the training I noticed many children stopped riding. When I asked why, they informed me that their families did not encourage them, as they felt riding bikes on the road was dangerous. Parents listed many barriers to cycling and why they did not encourage their children.”

After completing an Active Citizen course at Kuumba Imani, Ibe decided the time was right to change the culture, removing some of those barriers. Starting in early April 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic meant that his first project was to provide bikes to NHS and key workers, enabling them to travel to work safely.

But Ibe realised a radical new approach would be required to tackle the social inequalities in mobility, health, emissions and socio economic status in the city/region and create new attitudes to active travel and alter behaviour in city life.

A year later, Cycle of Life has delivered 90 community cycle rides, 45 hours of cycle repair workshops a week, repaired over 180 bikes and provided another 50 to NHS and key workers.

Its focus is on communities that have been traditionally overlooked or less represented in cycling and it has 150 members. It’s trained twelve cycle leaders – eight of whom are female, and six from BAME backgrounds – and established new cycling groups at Unity, Asylum Link, Liverpool mosque and a women’s group at Calderstones Park. Cycle of Life’s social value added has been calculated at over £400,000 in its first year.

“Collaboration is key to effective social change,” says Ibe. “Working with the public, private and voluntary sector means we can all achieve goals with limited resources.” He’s signed agreements with organisations as diverse as Liverpool City Council and Back on Track, providing a huge variety of services. Cycle UK has trained its volunteers, providing insurance and policies for them to become cycle leaders. In turn, they’re delivering led rides to local community groups like Asylum Link, and making plans to deliver balanceability classes, start a cargo bike delivery service with a young person’s cycle sports club with British cycling. “We’re also developing a 12-week targeted social prescribing pilot with Alder Hey Children’s hospital to tackle increasing health concerns in young people. And we’re negotiating a contract with a national provider to deliver a revamped model of instruction in schools with local instructors who reflect the communities they serve – not only will they teach children to ride, but will take their parents on led rides to give them the confidence.”

Cycle of Life will start bike buses with families cycling to school and create a big change in travel choices in Liverpool. Not only does the STO aim to increase active travel in Merseyside and remove barriers to cycling, but it’ll build skills in local communities by delivering cycle maintenance workshops, a cycle repair centre and develop an instructor and mechanic training centre, creating employment opportunities for local people.

The plans also support Liverpool’s ambition to become a zero-carbon city by 2030. A cycle hub will provide a repair station, café and showers for commuters, become Liverpool City Region’s first training centre of excellence for cycle mechanics and instructors and house an Active Travel consortium. Cycle of Life has created an L8 Active Travel Forum, made up of local residents, businesses and community organisations, to amplify L8’s voice with decision makers, consult and listen closely to its community and enable the area to be chosen for larger investments such as Liveable Neighbourhoods and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. It will also develop an effective tool to enable schools and other organisations to facilitate an effective active travel model within their communities, and help develop local ‘business on wheels’ entrepreneurs.

“I cycle for a few reasons,” says Ibe. “Keeping fit is one of them. It also relaxes my mind, whereas when I drive I feel stressed. Cycling gives me a chance to think about the wider picture. How we want our city to look in the future for our children. Now, for me, it’s about creating an inclusive culture with long term economic, environmental and health benefits. Cycling is a force for good. It creates an environment which can solve a lot of social ills.”