Ben Plowden visits the Hackney Volunteer Police Cadets Bike Project


 

Ben Plowden, Transport for London’s Director of Planning and Surface Transport, has visited the Hackney Volunteer Police Cadets Bike Project, one of the twenty one bike projects awarded by the Community Cycling Fund for London in 2013/2014. The fund, launched by London Cycling campaign over a decade ago, has been funded by Transport for London and administered by London Cycling Campaign since 2006.

The aim of the project is to train cadets in bike maintenance. Weekly sessions are delivered at the Forest Road Youth Hub in Hackney, using bikes recovered by the police and for which no owner can be traced. The cadets learn mechanics and work towards an AQA qualification and their Duke of Edinburgh awards. Refurbished bikes are then donated to local causes and once training has been completed the cadets practice their skills by taking part at community events organised in conjunction with the police. So far, fourty bikes have been donated to local residents and initiatives and cadets have participated in two community events.

After an informative introduction by project leader Tom Morris, Ben Plowden chatted to the young cadets taking great interest in their learning experience as bike mechanics and their passion for cycling. The project supports the take up of cycling within young people, aged between 13 and 18 years old, an age at which many stop cycling. “Cycling is a big part in the cadets' lives. They love the independence that bikes give them. But often they stop cycling when their bikes stop working because they can’t afford to take them to the shop. This is one of the reasons why they are so keen to learn mechanics and are enjoying participation in the project so much” says Tom. Since sessions started in February, twenty per cent of the cadets cycle more often and eighty five per cent feel more confident on their bikes.

The project is also an effort to keep young people off the streets and providing them with useful and, at the same time, engaging activities and skills. Many of the cadets are likely to leave school with little or no academic qualifications. The Volunteer Cadets service aims to provide experience and qualifications in a range of subjects so that they can make realistic choices on future careers. Gaining a qualification in cycle maintenance and experience in volunteering in the community will be valuable tools for the cadets when looking for a job in later life.

The project has gone from Hackney to the Gambia. Last year, after extensive fundraising, some of the Hackney cadets travelled to the Gambia with a lorry container filled with bikes and tools. During their time there they renovated a disused property into a cycle workshop. Now they are raising money for a third trip to Gambia, this time work in the bike workshop along the local community putting their newly-acquired mechanics and volunteering skills in practice.

The CCFL has been key to develop and support this and hundreds of other projects in London, making sure that all Londoners, regardless of their background, have access to cycling and the many benefits associated with it. You can find all infomration on the CCFL here.