Calvin in Olympic Park © Madeleine Waller

London’s first inclusive cycling centre launched in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

The social enterprise Bikeworks has partnered with the London Legacy Development Corporation and London Marathon Foundation to address inequalities in the world of cycling.

On 24 April, Bikeworks launched London’s first Inclusive Cycling Centre on the grounds of the iconic Lee Valley VeloPark, one of the permanent venues of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This location is particularly fitting because London’s winning Olympic bid served as the primary inspiration for Bikeworks’ founders. 

Zoe Portlock and Jim Blakemore created the enterprise in 2006 to address participation barriers and other cycling inequalities across London. The founders saw the Olympic Games as an opportunity to bring attention to and address these inequalities. 

Over the last 17 years, they have established a wide range of inclusive cycling initiatives, such as their All-Ability Clubs, where people with disabilities can access specialist cycles and instruction. Meanwhile, Side-by-Side, their cycle taxi service, provides people with health conditions and disabilities the chance to run errands, do gentle exercise, and tackle loneliness. 

For people with disabilities, services such as the All-Ability Club are invaluable tools in improving cycling confidence. A member of the Victoria Park All-Ability Club, Sylvia, spoke about the impact the club had on her daily life: ‘I had a knee replacement and cycling has helped with my recovery. I just love getting out and talking to people; everyone says hello and waves at us.’

3 women, Cynthia (left), Sylvia (right) and Mariuam (centre), on the grass in Victoria Park.
Sylvia (right) in Victoria Park © Madeleine Waller

The Inclusive Cycling Centre will showcase brands such as Van Raam and TomCat and provide customers with specialised guidance. They can then trial their cycles on the extensive cycling facilities available in the Olympic Park

In reference to the centre’s launch, co-founder Zoe Porluck stated: ‘We believe everyone deserves to enjoy the freedom, happiness and health benefits of cycling. Inequalities prevent many people from taking part, enjoying and discovering greater physical and mental wellbeing. The Centre is a massive milestone for Bikeworks as we continue our journey advocating for inclusive cycling and investment at grass-roots level.’ 

In order to finance the new centre, Bikeworks received a £55,000 grant from the Legacy Development Corporation and a £50,000 grant from the London Marathon Foundation’s Active Spaces Fund. 

A 2020 report by cycling charity Sustrans argued that existing policies have largely excluded individuals who face barriers in cycling. Bikeworks’ new Inclusive Cycling Centre seeks to address these gaps by making cycling more accessible to people in our area and beyond. 

If you enjoyed this article, have a look at our piece on how Cycle Sisters is empowering Muslim women to cycle. 

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