Group of cyclists riding on a cycle lane away from the camera.

Ahmet and family’s Bike Project story

I received a call from The Bike Project saying that our bikes are ready to collect- I cannot forget that day.

Meet Ahmet, teacher and cyclist, and hear about his and his whole family’s Bike Project journey. Ahmet speaks candidly about his experience in the UK, the joys of cycling for him, and how refugees should be supported…

My name is Ahmet Gultekin. I am 44 years old. I am from Turkey.  I am a teacher in the profession. I came to the UK with my family in 2020. After our arrival in October the second lockdown started and we spent that time in a hotel provided by the Home Office. It was a hectic time for many people but for asylum seekers it was terrible.

After these tough times, my children started schooling and restrictions eased a bit. It helped a lot. Then I started to walk daily with my wife to stay fit. To get to some places far away we had to walk around 1.5 hours- using a bus or tube is costly for asylum seekers’ families. Then we were sent to Birmingham and placed in a house. I cannot express my appreciation for that after staying 10 months in a hotel.

We came into contact with The Bike project after we moved to Birmingham. One of my friends said that there is an organisation who provides bikes for refugees and asylum seekers. After hearing the name of ‘The Bike Project’ I searched in google and found your website. I was really disappointed at first when I learnt that The Bike Project were not accepting new applications for a bike.

However, Pedal Power was open and I applied for my wife to join. I was contacted by The Bike Project and was told my wife can receive a bike and start a cycling course with the guidance of an instructor. We were very happy. By July 2021 my wife has started her cycling course and we were told next month The Bike project will start receiving new applications for a bike.

After we were granted refugee status, I got a job offer from London and we moved back to London. My wife had already finished her lessons and had got a bit of confidence on her bike. We sent applications for myself, my son and my daughter- we all knew how to cycle but we didn’t have any bikes. We were all using my wife’s bike when we were in Birmingham.

After we moved in London I received a call from The Bike Project saying that our bikes are ready to collect- I cannot forget that day. My kids were at school and our house is located in North London but bikes were in Central London. I went there with my wife to collect three bikes. After collecting them we used Overground up to Archway. After that we had to walk until home since my wife didn’t have the confidence to ride on roads open to traffic. When we arrived home the kids were there and were so happy. Now my wife has had her bike for 8 months and we have had ours for 6 months.

I use my bike to travel to my job. It is healthier because I am cycling. It is free so I save money or I use the money for my kids or other needs instead of spending it on traveling costs. In addition to that, it is also time-saving. My son goes to school with his bike and my wife takes him from school he uses his bike to come back home but they pay a visit to our local park every day so that my son can ride there.

I like cycling because it gives me some freedom of traveling, especially within a 5-6-mile radius where I can ride easily. Secondly, I enjoy cycling as a sport. It is very important for me to spend a productive time with my kids. If the weather is good I usually use Sundays for cycling with my son. It is very good for us to spend fun time together and exercise by cycling. Our favourite place to cycle is the Dollis Valley green walk along with Dollis Brook from west Finchley up to High Barnet.

The Bike Project helps refugees and asylum seekers to get rid of their anxieties for the future, even if sometimes it is just for a while. In long run, it contributes to people’s mental health. Secondly, they help people save money and travel more easily by cycling. Thirdly, it gives people an opportunity to meet with other people and socialize, so it makes integration and adaption to life in the UK easier.

If people help The Bike Project to continue its mission, many more refugees will be helped and supported. They can start their life more easily and start to contribute their local community as well as to the UK. If they feel discriminated against or just left aside and isolated, then there is a danger of losing hope for the future for them. Therefore, it may lead to bigger problems in the future.

In a perfect world, there won’t be refugees. People flee their countries because of injustice, hunger, oppression, discrimination, wars, etc. I believe that in a perfect world none of them will be possible so people will not leave their home places for good. They will live happily where they were born and grow. They might travel to different countries just for touristic or educational purposes.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us Ahmet and happy riding!

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