three people on adapted bike

Inclusive Cycling in Gloucestershire - Where it Started

MaryClare Faulkner, founder of Gloucestershire Wheels for All, has been nominated for 100 Women in Cycling 2020 for the hard work she has put into the project to get it off the ground to enable many people across the county to enjoy, discover and rediscover the joys of cycling. This is her story about how she got it started and how it’s become what it is now! 

As a child I cycled for fun and enjoyment and as an adult, cycling is my main means of transport and still enjoyable! 

In 2011, while working as a physiotherapist for Leonard Cheshire, I needed to find an adapted trike to enable one of our residents to cycle in the first Leonard Cheshire Tri-Together Triathlon at Crystal Palace Park in London. My subsequent first encounter with inclusive cycling was through the national charity “Cycling Projects” and it changed my life.  

Over the next couple of years I discovered that

i)   The residents loved being able to cycle on inclusive, adapted bikes

ii)   Cycling Projects has a national network of “Wheels For All” centres

iii)   There wasn’t a “Wheels For All” centre in Gloucestershire. 

From late 2013 onwards I worked with Leonard Cheshire, Cycling Projects, the Inclusion Officer at the County Sports Partnership ‘Active Gloucestershire’, Forestry England, the Gloucestershire Athletics Track Management Ltd and Tomcat SNI Ltd to ensure that “Gloucestershire Wheels For All” became a reality. 

By late December 2016 I knew that I wanted to lead the project and take it forwards, so I left the Physiotherapy profession (after over 35 years) and since January 2017 have been living and breathing inclusive cycling, while still working with Leonard Cheshire as part of their Community Engagement.   

It is the most wonderful privilege being able to facilitate the opportunity for people to get back to cycling regularly or to discover it for the first time, whatever their age or ability, in safe, off-road environments. We deliver at least two 6-hour sessions per week at the Blackbridge Athletics Track in Gloucester and regular 4 to 5-hour sessions along beautiful forest trails in the Forest of Dean. We also deliver outreach inclusive cycling sessions around Gloucestershire; we take the bikes to residential homes for older people to experience the joys of cycling again, as well as to Cycling Festivals, Special Olympics and other fully inclusive events. We work with health, educational and social care organisations around the county and are constantly looking at ways to reach more organisations and to make the bikes as widely available as possible.   

My Project Assistant and I would not manage without our amazing volunteers who faithfully turn up in all weathers to facilitate the sessions and to help us keep the well-used bikes maintained. We offer volunteering and work experience opportunities for school, college and university students. Cycling participants range from ages 5 to 95; even younger siblings and babes in arms come along. It is brilliant seeing whole families cycling together in the Sunday afternoon and school holiday sessions and amazing to notice the children getting taller and ‘growing into’ the bikes that were initially too large for them! 

The numbers attending have been steadily increasing since January 2017, and the first two weeks of March 2020 up to the Lockdown were our busiest yet! We are currently looking at compliant ways of resuming the sessions within a Covid 19 environment – watch this space!............ 

To find out more about Gloucestershire Wheels For All check out their profile on You’re Welcome at https://www.yourewelcomeglos.org/users/gloucestershire-wheels-for-all 

Facebook links to organisations mentioned:

Gloucestershire Wheels For All - https://www.facebook.com/Gloucestershire-Wheels-For-All-314888975573468/

Cycling projects - facebook.com/Cycling-projects

Tomcat SNI Ltd - https://www.facebook.com/TomcatSNILtd/

Leonard Cheshire Gloucestershire - https://www.facebook.com/LeonardCheshireGloucestershire

Active Gloucestershire - https://www.facebook.com/ActiveGlos/

Forestry England - https://www.facebook.com/forestry.england.uk/