Sir Gary Verity: Bicycle libraries honour legacy of sport's success

PASSION and pride is at the very heart of communities in Yorkshire and the Tour de Yorkshire and Grand Départ showcased this like nothing we've ever seen before.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 19th December 2016, 9:52 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:57 pm
Yorkshire Bank employees getting behind the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme at the companys headquarters in Leeds.
Yorkshire Bank employees getting behind the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme at the companys headquarters in Leeds.

The people of Yorkshire ensured we delivered the grandest ever Grand Départ of the Tour de France and it is the people of Yorkshire who are behind the Tour de Yorkshire’s meteoric success.

It is also one of the reasons that Yorkshire was successfully chosen to host 2019 UCI Road World Championships: make no mistake, our beautiful county is rapidly becoming the heartland of cycling.

And as much as we look forward to hosting some of the world’s best riders in these global events, it makes me proud to see the lasting legacy this has had on the next generation.

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The Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme has been at the centre of this legacy and I am immensely proud of its success.

Learning to ride a bike is one of life’s great milestones and a rite of passage for a lot of children. But thousands of disadvantaged children across the county don’t have a bike to call their own and won’t experience the freedom and joy that riding a bike can bring.

This is where the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries come in. The aim was to give every child in Yorkshire access to a bike, regardless of their circumstances.

Team Sky rider David Lopez launched the first ever Yorkshire Bank Bike Library back in 2014 just after the Grand Départ.

And since then more than 4,500 bikes have been donated, giving 22,000 children across the county the opportunity to ride a bike.

The project has seen old and unwanted bikes that would have otherwise been thrown in the tip or left to gather dust in garages donated, repaired and then loaned out to children and families free of charge. It’s a simple concept, but one that could potentially change a child’s life forever.

None of this would be possible without the support of Yorkshire Bank, who have thrown their weight behind our mission to make Yorkshire the first place where nobody, because of their circumstances, is deprived of a bike.

Through Yorkshire Bank’s financial backing, and with support from the team at Welcome to Yorkshire, 33 bike libraries and 49 donations stations have been launched in all four corners of the county. All of the bike libraries are different, and can be started from scratch or be part of an existing project. However, they all work towards the same goal – getting more children riding bikes.

It is a real privilege to see these bike libraries having such a positive impact on their communities, bringing families together and teaching children skills for life.

One that really stands out for me is the bike library at Richmond Hill Primary School, which opened at the start of 2016 and is the first school to host a bike library. Many of Richmond Hill’s pupils are new to the country, meaning a bike is the last thing they have access to.

Through the bike library, these children are being taught how to ride for the very first time, which is truly incredible and goes to show just how much of an impact the scheme has had so far. The school also uses the bikes as a reward for good behaviour, as well as letting pupils ride them to and from school to make sure they arrive on time.   

Another bike library that is doing some fantastic work is Aware Bike Library, based at the Airedale and Wharfedale Autism Resource, in Addingham, near Skipton. Here the volunteers dedicate their time to teaching children with autism how to ride a bike. Whether they are mastering balance, pedalling solo for the first time or learning about road safety, the volunteers at the bike library are there to help them every step of the way as they take their first ride on the road.

I am also pleased to say that Scarborough, which will play host to the Tour de Yorkshire for the third time next year, opened its first bike library this summer.

The Coast and Dale Bike Library is a fantastic resource for children and families living on the coast and in Ryedale, offering bike hire, guided rides, bike skills sessions and bike maintenance courses.

Lift the lid on the rest of Yorkshire’s bike libraries and you’ll find countless more inspirational stories, all of which are made possible by the simple act of donating an old bike.

As Christmas fast approaches and new bikes are bought, wrapped and laid under the tree for the children, we’re asking people not to forget about their old, outgrown bikes.

No matter what condition the bike is in, people can take them to a bike library where they will be transformed and given a new lease of life by an army of enthusiastic mechanics and volunteers.

You never know, you may be responsible for giving the next Lizzie Deignan or Chris Froome their start.

Sir Gary Verity is chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.