Eighty children affected by poverty and disadvantage woke up to a newly recycled bike on Christmas morning thanks to hugely successful Santa Bikes initiative which captured the imagination of the people of Greater Cumbernauld during November and December.
Cumbernauld Family Hub and Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub joined forces with Wee Cycle Cumbernauld in the run up to Christmas to identify underprivileged families in Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Northern Corridor who would benefit from a free bike for their child. An overwhelming response was generated, with 80 worthy children being referred.
Santa Bikes was initially designed to enable 20 recycled bicycles together with crash helmets to be gifted to children up to the age of 12 across Greater Cumbernauld in time for Christmas 2021. However, following an exceptional effort in which the volunteer team of Wee Cycle Cumbernauld went above and beyond in the weeks leading up to 25 December, a remarkable four times as many children (aged 1 to 12) were able to receive bikes.
Those benefiting included, amongst others, children with autism and other support needs, parents battling serious illnesses and long term conditions, families afflicted by unemployment, lone parents new to the area and people whose mental health has been significantly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The project was coordinated by local community interest company Wee Cycle Cumbernauld and funded by Cornerstone House Centre’s Cumbernauld CAN (Community Anchor Network) programme. Motorbike mechanic and cycle trainer Phil Jones, founder of Wee Cycle Cumbernauld, said:
“When we read through the applications for bikes, there were some heartbreaking stories and it drove us to put everything in to building a bike for every child referred on.
“It was an exhausting few weeks but thanks to our outstanding team of volunteers, several kind-hearted people who donated bikes and the support of organisations like Cumbernauld Cycles and Cornerstone House Centre, we were able to meet the deadline and managed to get all the bikes distributed by Thursday 23 December 2021 in time for Christmas.
“The bikes were constructed from recycled materials, making excellent use of a £500 community grant awarded to Wee Cycle Cumbernauld by Cumbernauld CAN in August 2021.
“We have also been able to secure a further bonus for the families receiving bikes, as they will be able to access a Cumbernauld bike repair scheme free of charge if anything goes wrong with any of the bicycles over the coming period.
“Santa Bikes has been a massive hit and has benefited Cumbernauld children and families affected by unemployment, deprivation and health issues, whilst alleviating the financial and social pressures of Christmas on parents and promoting healthy lifestyles.
“The scheme proved so popular and successful that we are already putting in place plans to deliver it again in 2022, and possibly at other times of the year as well as Christmas.”
The positive impact that the project has had can be underlined when considering the comments made by some of the families benefiting. One parent of a 10 year-old boy receiving a bike said:
“The reason I applied for a bike for my son was due to our family experiencing a very tough year. My son had to go into woman’s refugee with me and had to leave all his possessions behind.
“We managed to get our own home in time for Christmas, but money was extremely tight with a new house and another baby on the way in eight weeks time.
“My son was so happy on Christmas morning when he seen his bike. He’s been asking for a bike since we moved here to help get him to school and back. This will be a great help to us.” Another mother commented:
“I am a single mother, on low income and I struggle to make ends meet at the best of times and constantly have money worries. For my son to receive this bike at Christmas meant the world to him and to me, as it’s something I just simply couldn’t afford, especially at Christmas time.
“My son loves being outdoors, so this will definitely benefit his health and wellbeing by providing him with a new activity to do with friends.” Meanwhile, one emotional parent told Cornerstone House Centre:
“My daughter’s gran (my mum) spent last Christmas in Strathcarron Hospice, passing away on Boxing Day. Her other grandparent (my dad) has also been battling cancer and her receiving a bike made this Christmas a little more bearable and took some of the sadness away from my mum’s first anniversary.”
Other recipients of bikes included a family that had their four children’s bikes stolen from their back garden, a seven year-old girl with Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD whose confidence has already improved markedly since receiving her bike and an eight-year old boy with dyspraxia who is using the bike to help improve his balance and coordination.
It is hoped that the success of Santa Bikes will help raise the profile of Wee Cycle Cumbernauld, a newly formed organisation which promotes cycling in all its forms across Cumbernauld. The group encourages cycling for health, fitness and active transport, as well as undertaking bicycle repairs, teaching bicycle maintenance and working with local families to help them keep cycling.
The company interest company (CIC) highlighted its credentials by hosting a tremendous Pedal in the Park community event at Palacerigg Country Park on 14-15 August 2021, and plans to expand its sphere of influence in relation to promoting cycling locally through the introduction of a new accessible cycling circuit in Cumbernauld during 2022.
A key message being communicated by Wee Cycle Cumbernauld is that cycling offers multiple advantages for both the individual cyclist and wider communities, including physical health benefits, mental health benefits, environmental benefits and keeping people’s transport costs down.
According to NHS Scotland, children aged 5 to 18 should get a minimum 60 minutes of physical activity a week, but a British Heart Foundation Physical Inactivity Report found that much of the young population fail to undertake this.
Physical activity can increase a child’s mental alertness, energy, positive mood and self-esteem, as well as reducing stress and anxiety, according to the Mental Health Foundation. One way to make sure your child exercises enough is to get them riding a bike on a regular basis.
Greater Cumbernauld has many green spaces in which children can enjoy cycling for fun, health and exercise, including Palacerigg Country Park, Cumbernauld House Park, Cumbernauld Community Park and Colzium House and Estate, to name just a few.
The local area also benefits from having a network of dedicated cycle paths which make it ideal for cycling to be undertaken. Indeed, those living in Carbrain, Chryston, Croy, Dullatur, Glenboig, Kildrum, Kilsyth, Lenziemill and Moodiesburn all have access to excellent cycling routes.
Further information about Wee Cycle Cumbernauld and its Santa Bikes initiative can be obtained by emailing Phil Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.