We caught up with Rachel Davies, Project Manager for Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries, who gave us the low down on how this unique project is getting more people out on bikes across the county. Here's what she had to say:
Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries (YBBL) is a legacy project from when the Grand Départ of the Tour de France came to Yorkshire in 2014. It was set up to ensure that every child across Yorkshire, regardless of their background, would have access to a bike for free. The project works in two ways, firstly we encourage people to donate their old and unwanted bikes that are sat unwanted and unused in their sheds and garages to one of 51 donation stations that we currently have across the county. Some of these are at waste sites so when you take your garden rubbish there’s a place to drop off bikes, these donation stations then give us a call when they’ve got 10-20 bikes donated and we go and collect them in our van, Brian (named after the pioneering Yorkshire rider, Brian Robinson, who was the first British cyclist to win a stage of the Tour de France). We then take these bikes to one of 34 Bike Libraries that are set up across the county. These bike libraries then have volunteers and mechanics who then clean the bikes up, repair them and make them road-safe and then they become available to borrow for a period of time for children and families.
The overall aim is to ensure every child has access to a bike, but as we know the children have to be accompanied by an adult when they borrow a bike and so we encourage the whole family to take part. On top of this, we would never turn away an adult that wants to borrow a bike as we recognise the benefit this can have for people when it comes to commuting and that it also eases motor traffic on the road and in that way helps protect the environment too. Some of the Bike Libraries are located specifically in a school or the Bike Library has links to a particular school through Bikeability projects so predominantly young children but ultimately everyone can borrow a bike.
There are 34 Bike Libraries currently active but we get new Bike Libraries on board by having funding rounds and we had our fourth funding round at the end of 2016 and from that we will have 15 new Bike Libraries which will hopefully all be up and running by the time of this year’s Tour de Yorkshire. We hope to have 50 active Bike Libraries by the end of the year.
I think it means so much really. As we know, every Bradley Wiggins and Lizzie Armitstead starts from scratch and having access to a bike from a young age can be so important. To date there’s been over 31,000 opportunities for young people to borrow a bike from a Bike Library and this wouldn’t have been possible without Yorkshire Bank’s support and the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire in 2014. So it’s a fantastic legacy and one that we are very proud of.
Last summer it was a really positive summer following on from our stage sponsorship of the third stage of the Tour de Yorkshire. It was also an Olympic year and the BBC picked up on the success of the project and we were live on BBC Breakfast with a family from Tadcaster that regularly use their Bike Library, Postive Youth, going down to Manchester and doing an interview about Bike Libraries which was great exposure.
Also, we teamed up with ITV’s Countrywise and Ben Fogle came up to Yorkshire and visited a Bike Library called Happy Days in Sowerby Bridge, borrowed a bike and went cycling round Yorkshire which was then shown on ITV on a Friday evening.
However, really hearing the success stories that have come from the project, specifically children who are from difficult backgrounds or different countries who have come to the county and never even cycled on a bike before and so it’s really heart-warming to hear stories of how they’ve been able to hire a bike, go out and have a fun day out and really enjoy cycling.
There are 8 Bike Libraries that are along the route of the Tour de Yorkshire this year and so we are working with them to make sure they are geared up to get the maximum exposure out of the race, potentially getting some TV coverage maybe through some creative land art.
Also, we are the Stage Three partner again this year so we will make sure that all our Bike Libraries are up to date and ready for additional visitors. On the Sunday we’re going to have huge activation zones at Bradford and Fox Valley, we’re hoping to organise a kids race at the start of each stage and have pop-up Bike Libraries at all the starts and finishes too.
Brian the Bike Libraries van will also be in the caravan where we’ll be handing out bang bang sticks, sweets, bags and badges to fans on the roadside too. So keep an eye out for us if you’re coming out to support!
Whilst not everyone across Yorkshire is aware of the project yet, the knowledge is certainly growing on a daily basis through our social media and press releases. However, everyone that I know who is aware of the project has been really impressed by how many bikes we’ve been able to collect, as we currently have over 5,000 and that they’re very enthusiastic about the positive actions that the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries project has achieved to date.
These Bike Libraries are provided with a small amount of funding at the start, which they usually use this funding towards purchasing a secure storage container but also to upskill all the volunteers so they’ve got the ability to repair the bikes and make them safe. If it wasn’t for the people who run these Bike Libraries though, we wouldn’t be where we are now. They are massively inspirational, give up a lot of their time to help out and we’re really thankful for their help. It wouldn’t happen without them.
We’re currently at 51, but when the new 15 Bike Libraries launch, it’ll also result in 24 new Donation Stations too so we’ll be up to 75 Donation Stations covering all corners of the county so this should hopefully make it easy for people to donate any unwanted bikes.
In terms of the bikes, we are happy for any bike to be donated - it doesn’t matter if it is road, hybrid or mountain bikes. Sometimes the bikes are not repairable but we can take parts from them like chains and the gears that we can then use on fixing up other bikes. A lot of the bikes donated are adult bikes but we’re always on the lookout for children’s bikes and balance bikes so if you’ve got an old one please consider delivering them to your local Donation Station!
Keep on growing them. We’ve got a really strong network now and we want to keep the legacy alive. We’ve got the World Road Race Championships coming to Yorkshire in 2019 and so continuing to develop the Bike Libraries up to then is an initial goal as that event is bound to deliver another great legacy following on from what will be no doubt be another great sporting event held in Yorkshire.
Also, the ultimate goal would be if a future Tour de Yorkshire winner could be a Yorkshire boy or girl who got in to cycling off the back of riding a Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries bike. Wouldn’t that just be fantastic?
It certainly would, Rachel!
You can find out more about the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries project by visiting their website: www.bikelibraries.co.uk