In a nutshell
Who are you?
Charmaine Smith, partnership member in Noel Park Big Local, Wood Green.
What did you do?
Set up a scheme to buy bikes for local key workers.
To ensure that key workers have a safe way of getting to work during COVID-19.
What’s the benefit?
Keeping local key workers safe during the pandemic, and wider health and environmental benefits beyond this.
As a support worker in mental health, I’ve been working throughout lockdown and visiting the houses of those I provide care to. When government guidelines on social distancing were announced, I knew that key workers would have to put themselves, their families and those they care for at risk by travelling to work on public transport. I’ve long been cycling to work as it’s much quicker – however, I know that lots of other key workers in Noel Park have been using public transport during the pandemic as they can’t afford a bike.
I wanted to do something to counteract the fact that money could be an obstacle in protecting people’s health during a global pandemic, so I decided to set up the Wheels for Workers scheme. As a partnership member of Noel Park Big Local, I felt that the scheme would really fit in with our overall hopes and aims for supporting the community so I secured £3000 of funding to set the project up as a pilot scheme – with a view to allocating more funding if the project really takes off. Once the funding was in place, I had to find a suitable organisation to partner with that would help us procure good quality bikes for a reasonable price.
Finding the right partner organisation
We found a local organisation called Bikes for Good Causes and decided to partner with them – they refurbish old bikes to a high specification and make them safe again to use. I was really pleased to find them as they are a social enterprise business that support the local community in a range of different ways so its great to know that our Big Local funding is going towards an important cause. We then decided on a price range and settled on a sum of £250 to get each applicant set up with a bike and the relevant equipment – we ask everyone to get a helmet, bike lock and lights. Each bike also has a one year warranty.
Implementing the scheme
To be eligible for the scheme, applicants must be a Noel Park resident and a key worker. Along with our area coordinator, Paul Bragman, I created an application form to ensure that everyone we support through the scheme fits that particular criteria. As the project grows, I’m hoping to open out the scheme to other essential workers like supermarket staff. I would imagine that somewhere between one third and two thirds of the working population in Noel Park are either key or essential workers so I think there could be a lot of people in our Big Local area who would benefit from this.
Watching the project grow
We initially advertised the scheme in the Noel Park newsletter and have had four applicants so far – one of whom has just received her bike. The scheme is already starting to spread through word of mouth and we’ll continue to include it in the community newsletter so I’m hoping that we get even more take-up. Cycling has so many positives: its good for the environment, saves money on public transport and is good for your health. I’m really looking forward to seeing this project grow within Noel Park and would absolutely love to see similar schemes implemented in other Big Local areas too.