In the heat of August, the Bike Project and Klevis Kola Foundation converged on Tooting Bec Common for an afternoon of cycling together. Some of the group had never ridden a bike before but by the end of the afternoon, thanks to the support and encouragement of the Bike Project team, our two novices were gaining in confidence, able to stay upright, and were grinning from ear to ear. The rest of the group all hopped on bikes and took part in tests of their skill, races, and the freedom and joy that cycling brings. We had not told the group that they could take bikes home, wanting to make sure they were safe enough to do so before we offered them. All of the group could ride and were amazed when they were told they could keep their bike. The Bike Project kitted them out with helmets, lights and locks- everything they need to keep them safe.
One child had just had her 12th birthday and said her bike was her best present ever; another was keen to go home and share his new bike with his brother. An 18 year old was thrilled with the freedom it would now give him, meaning he could get to football training sessions quickly and for free, rather than weighing up the choice between an extremely long and slow bus ride versus the expense of a train. Many of the young people we work with are frustrated that they cannot afford to go to a gym, take exercise classes or swim as it is prohibitively expensive; having a bike will help them exercise and gives them a free social activity they can do with their friends. It also opens up the whole of London to them; one of our group was so excited at his new found freedom that he cycled from Crystal Palace to Tower Bridge, getting terribly lost on his way home, but delighted that his horizons are no longer limited to his small corner of South West London. All of our young people have asked us to say thank you to you all.
We at Klevis Kola Foundation are thankful for people like the Bike Project, taking a simple idea and turning it into something life changing.