The All Ability Club: Bikes, community and fun
- Credit: Archant
Children with learning disabilities are riding high at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park thanks to a cycling social enterprise.
Cycling trainer Richard Williams believes the natural environment and traffic-free paths inside the Park in Stratford make the perfect setting for the children to enjoy themselves freely.The former mental health worker said: “The children really enjoy the physical activity. Some of them
might feel reluctant to do anything at the beginning of the session but by the end they do not want to leave the bike.
“Their behaviour is significantly improved through the sessions and they seem to be able to concentrate on things for a longer period of time.”
Bikeworks also delivers cycling sessions to schools within the boroughs surrounding the Olympic Park.
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At their base in Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, second hand bicycles are recycled to help cut down on metal being sent to landfill sites.
They also offer employment opportunities for ex-offenders, long-term unemployed, and homeless people.
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Bikeworks founder and co-director, Jim Blakemore, said: “We use the bike to deliver environmental change, employability, and opportunities for people with disabilities, getting them out with bikes.
The All Ability Club is part of a programme run by Bikeworks, which in Mr Blakemore own words, is all about: “Bikes, community, and fun.”
“We can see benefits to anyone who comes to the club over a long period of time. Basically just getting out, talking to people, interacting with other members of the community is all very positive and good for well-being.”
Looking at the immediate future for Bikeworks and the All Ability Club, Mr Blakemore believes the next stage is to set up a training centre for disabled people inside the Olympic Park.
Next year they will also provide cycling lessons at the Velodrome, one of the permanent venues left behind after last year’s London Games.
Looking back Jim believes the Paralympics had a positive impact. “It put a lot of people with disabilities on the same platform as the rest of society,” he said.But when asked about the real legacy of the Games he concluded: “It is still too soon to see the legacy, only one year after the Olympics, but the idea and motivation they put in place is all there and should provide a legacy for all. “That is what we are
doing and why we are doing what we do. We can say we are already contributing to the Olympic legacy. But I think we are still a long way off. A change has been made but not a significant change… yet.”