Families in Rutland are benefiting from a new county-wide scheme that sees old and damaged bicycles restored to full working order and given free of charge to people who need them.
Rutland County Council is working with HMP Stocken on the ‘My Bike’ project, through which bicycles disposed of at the council’s recycling centres are collected and reconditioned by prisoners, before being offered to members of the community who don’t have a bike of their own.
The aim of the project is to help children, young people, adults and families into education, training, employment and recreation by providing access to free sustainable transport.
My Bike is coordinated by Rutland County Council’s sustainable transport officer and involves adult and children’s social services, as well as the council’s community safety team, local schools and colleges.
The emphasis is on supporting people who may have a low income, learning difficulties or poor mental health, as well as those undergoing recovery programmes or living in sheltered accommodation.
Each participant receives a reconditioned bike, adjusted for their age and height, as well as a helmet, bike safety kit and bike lock. They also attend free a cycle maintenance tutorial, have their bike security coded by Leicestershire Police and take part in a basic bike handling assessment.
Mark Andrews, deputy director for people, Rutland County Council, said: “Thanks to the prisoners and workshop staff at HMP Stocken we now have a process where old and unwanted bikes of all sizes can be reconditioned and given to individuals and families who might otherwise find it difficult to get one.
"This opens up a whole range of possibilities in terms of what these people can do, from improving their health and well-being through exercise to providing a form of free transport that puts work, education or training within reach."
“The project also helps prisoners at HMP Stocken who learn new skills that could eventually lead to employment.”
Neil Walsh, HMP Stocken workshop instructor, said: "This is a really positive project, not least for the people who are getting bikes.
“Some prisoners know absolutely nothing about bikes when they start the course but will eventually come out with a City & Guilds certificate in cycle maintenance, which is a recognised qualification that can help them into meaningful employment after they’re released.”