Otley star Lizzie Deignan praises Leeds universities for cycling initiative in South Africa

Otley cycling star Lizzie Deignan has praised a cycling project backed by two Leeds universities in one of South Africa’s most remote and deprived areas.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 11:45 am
Lizzie Deignan. Photo courtesy of Jo Jo Harper

In the last five years student volunteers and staff from the University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University have provided cycle riding and maintenance lessons to around 120 children in the KwaZulu-Natal region

KwaZulu-Natal is a remote area where children routinely walk two hours to and from school each day.

The Bambisanani ‘Cycling to Success’ initiative was launched by the Bambisanani Partnership charity, which was founded 15 years ago by David Geldart at St Mary’s School, Menston

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People taking part in the The Bambisanani ‘Cycling to Success’ project.

Six years ago, Andrew Lockwood, from the University of Leeds, visited South Africa with Bambisanani volunteers from St Mary’s School.

The visit led to the university becoming an integral part of the charity and the development of a successful cycling project.

The programme has not only provided bikes but also training from student volunteers and staff from the University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University, who teach children how to ride bikes safely and maintain them.

A central ‘Bike Hub’ has been established at Mnyakanya School where the bikes and equipment are kept and the training takes place.

Lizzie Deignan. Photo courtesy of Jo Jo Harper

Mrs Pk Zondi, Bambisanani Coordinator at Mnyakanya High School said: "Cycling was not that familiar in our community until this initiative was introduced.

"Since then it has become part of the lives of many learners. During lockdown, when schools were closed, they were so excited to be using the bikes.

"We do not have enough words to pass on our gratitude and thanks to the University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University for changing the lives of our young people.”

University of Leeds student Franki Darko, said: “I’m proud to say I helped teach 30 kids how to ride a bicycle in just a few days.

People taking part in the The Bambisanani ‘Cycling to Success’ project.

"I am however even prouder to say that a group of 30 kids have taught me more than I could have ever imagined.

"I discovered the perseverance the children had as well as the importance of Zulu culture in those same couple of days."

Lizzie Deignan said: “I am inspired and excited to see the work being done by ‘Cycling to Success’.

"In my case success is measured in medals and titles but in reality the most simple and brilliant success that the bicycle can give its rider is the victory of freedom.

People taking part in the The Bambisanani ‘Cycling to Success’ project.

"I am delighted that the opportunity to achieve freedom is being donated by the work of ‘Cycling to Success’. It is such a valuable and effective way to broaden horizons.’

Since 2016 a total of 70 used bikes have been refurbished and shipped to Mnyakanya High School with the support of University of Leeds and the Cardinal Maritime Shipping Company

A total of 80 new bikes have also been bought and shipped through student and staff fundraising.