Bike Club

Bike Club

Organisation   RehabCare, Cavan
Target Group  RehabCare Service Users 
Description  I am keyworker to a wonderful man who has a slight intellectual disability and also has a visual impairment; he has been fully blind since birth. We were in a Keyworker meeting one sunny afternoon and he began to speak to me about his childhood and not being able to do certain things that other kids his age could do, I asked "like what" and he mentioned cycling a bike. We explored the idea of bicycles as well as the benefits of exercise and I mentioned it to my manager later in the day. Amy suggested a tandem bike and the following morning, I explained the idea to Patsy and asked if he was willing to try it out. Around the same time, I had gotten the ‘Bike to Work’ scheme and had started to bring a bicycle in and out of the centre each day. I took him outside to my own bicycle which he began to touch and I explained how the tandem would be longer and have two saddles, I reminded him that I would be steering so he would need to put all of his trust in me.

The Service User then came up with the concept of having some sort of a group or a club with bicycles and said "I think some of the others might like to do cycling too" and we asked around. Eight other Service Users were very interested and we met to do some group sessions on road safety. I was in regular contact with a company called Rothar, they repair and refurbish unwanted bicycles. They were very intrigued about wanting the tandem bike to assist a man who is visually impaired with cycling around Dublin. Rothar took my contact details and got in touch within a month to say they had sourced a tandem bike in amazing condition, as well as 8 other bikes for the group. The day we drove into town on our service vehicle to get the bicycles was fantastic, the Service Users were so excited and Rothar offered to fully service our bikes for free every 6 months as they were so impressed by the bike club we were setting up. Over the next few weeks, we cycled up and down the canal which is next to our centre on the Kylemore Road. The canal path stretches from Lucan all the way to Ringsend and is very safe with lots of room so Patsy could get used to this new experience. He adored being out on the bicycle, as did everybody else and we invested in bike locks so that we could cycle into town to run errands or just go for a coffee. People used to ask us all the time where we were from and what we were doing and I would explain we are a bike club from RehabCare in Ballyfermot. We even arranged a triathlon and did a fundraising event for our centre whereby the cyclists all cycled for a certain distance and racked up over 200 kilometres between them. Nowadays, the Bike Club is well known in the local community and other resource centres are aware of it, I know the day Service HOPs has now also introduced Bike Club into their timetable. You can tell just from the quotes below, exactly how much this club means to our members.

Terri says “I enjoy Bike Club as it helps with weight loss and gets me out of the Day Service for a few hours every week”. Sean comments “I look forward to Bike Club every week and am happy to take part in a programme that keeps me fit and in shape”. Patsy says “The Day Service invested in a tandem bicycle for me as I am visually impaired. I love Bike Club and getting out for a few hours a couple of mornings each week, I also love the feeling of the fresh air in my face when on the bicycle. We do a different route along the canal each week and I think the longer the cycle, the better”. Gearoid mentions “We head off on our bikes after morning break around 10am on a Tuesday and I think it was the best idea for a programme in the whole centre. I was very happy when Donna first mentioned it at a House Meeting and could not wait to sign up, we cycle for miles each week”. Derek says “I am 47 years of age and have not been on a bicycle since I was a child, so I was delighted to be offered a place in Bike Club. I invested in a helmet straight away and got out onto the bicycle almost immediately, I was so so excited”.

Terri comments “It is important to look after your bicycle and we all service and clean the bikes on a regular basis. We also had the option of naming our bicycles which are kept here in a locked shed at the centre, I called my bicycle Michael Bubble after my favourite singer”. Patsy adds “For health and safety reasons, we all need to have a helmet when cycling and we have high-visibility vests to wear on the bicycle in the darker Winter months”. Sean says “We must wear appropriate clothing for Bike Club and flip flops or jeans are not allowed. We wear tracksuits and runners in order to be comfortable whilst cycling”. Patsy mentions “The furthest distance we have cycled so far is from the Kylemore Road in Ballyfermot to Harolds Cross near Rathmines and then back again. At first I was quite nervous as I am unable to see and had to put all my trust in Donna who was on the tandem bicycle with me and guiding it along the route. I actually feel that our Day Service has created history on a national level, as I do not know of any other organisations who support adults with disabilities that have a bike club”.

Sean adds “People in the local community have seen us all cycling and we are known now by people in Ballyfermot for our bike club. People passing us on the luas stare out at the tandem bicycle and the row of cyclists following behind along the canal. Bus drivers have been beeping and waving at us and local people stop to ask us where we are from and how our bike club came about”. Patsy comments “I love when people beep their horn at us, I cannot see them but the sound gives us all encouragement to peddle faster and keep up the good work”. Finally Derek adds “I hope to continue to attend Bike Club, even in the Winter months, I wear gloves and a scarf”.
Staff and 
1 staff member, 8 bicycles, 1 tandem bicycle, 9 safety helmets, 9 high-visibility vests, and a kit for servicing bikes every two months.
Duration The Bike Club was first implemented early last year but has only come more popular in recent times due to the enjoyment others have seen individuals getting from the bicycles. 
Budget RehabCare Ballyfermot won €1,000 at the Innovation awards in 2012 for a Service User led innovation to drive a car at Mondello race course. This money was used to purchase bicycles and a tandem bike from a store called Rothar in Dublin, Rothar refurbishes old bikes to make them new again. They sold us 8 restored bicycles and 1 tandem bike for €1,000 and Service Users purchased their own helmets. The high-visability vests came free from Dublin County Council and our kit for servicing the bikes was also donated to us for this unique programme. 
Contact /more information 

Donna Hughes: