As part of my role as a British cycling coach I became aware of a webinar during lockdown about how to start a bicycle bus hosted by British cycling and others who had already started a bicycle bus in their local area, I attended, my interest was spiked and thus began my journey in starting the very first bicycle bus in Leamington and Warwick.
My Daughter attends St Margaret’s school in Whitnash and my Son will be starting Briar Hill school (on the same site) next September so the idea seemed great to me, but I needed to know if there was interest in the community, so I posted a quick poll on the Warwick Gates Facebook page and a number of people responded showing an interest, including others from another very nearby school, St Joseph’s. I decided that I should continue knowing that with the right promotion many more people would become aware of the initiative.
Having been given a ‘road map’ of how to set up a bicycle bus, I set about getting the support needed so I contacted my local councillor, councillor Andrew Day, with an outline of the initiative, and I have to say, he was extremely helpful, contacting other councillors and people who could help me in various ways, all of whom were very supportive and lots of emails and phone calls followed from requesting extra hedge cutting by cycle paths to requesting additional cycle lane provision.
I then turned my attention to a brand, having run my own business previously I know how important this is and found an image which was ideal for what I wanted to portray, a name for the initiative and tag line soon followed and ‘the bicycle bus’ was born.
I realised I needed a platform for people to find and use the bicycle bus so I contacted a friend, Simon Hanagarth, who is a lot more knowledgeable about these things and who owns a web design business, überdoodle design. After hearing what I wanted to do, Simon gave me some tips and then offered to build a website for me which was amazing as I struggle to log into my email sometimes!!
I now had the bare bones of a website which needed to be filled with content so I set about writing information for the website and I set up a Facebook page, but I was starting to incur charges for various things which is where my ever generous boss stepped in, I’m a plumber by trade and fit bathrooms for Modern Homes LTD run by Mother and Son team Tina and Dan Riley, Tina is a great boss and has supported me on other occasions, when I told her of this initiative she immediately wanted to be involved and gave a financial donation to cover the costs I was incurring which was extremely generous to help this free initiative get off the ground.
Being in the building trade I visit BPS building merchants regularly for materials, as they are very close to Warwick Gates, and realising that as a group of cyclists, it would be helpful if we were highly visible, I spoke to Emma at BPS who again, jumped at the chance to help the local community and after discussing with suppliers, is providing hi viz vests for both adults and children which will improve the safety and awareness of the bicycle bus.
Being an experienced cyclist and a British cycling coach I know the importance of wearing a helmet and having a safe, roadworthy bike, and it is something that I will insist on all participants of the bicycle bus having, so I sought the support of a local bike shop, contacting John Atkins Cycles I outlined my idea and they were very interested in helping and are providing a 10% discount and a free bike safety check to all participants of the bicycle bus (Simon needs to be contacted before claiming these) as well as supplying me with first aid kits and continuing bundle deals for the riders.
Although not required, I wanted to attend a ride leaders course with British cycling which will give me more information and knowledge to build on my experience and passion, as well as other benefits, however, this is quite an expensive course to attend so I applied for the cost to be paid for through the Whitnash Charitable Trust, which was granted as the 3 schools are within Whitnash and this initiative will benefit the local area.
All this has taken time and effort to pull together from contacting local businesses and individuals for support to writing risk assessments, from planning a safe and logical route to editing website and the Facebook page but all of it has been a rewarding exercise.
I can’t thank the local business, organisations and individuals enough who have all been so supportive and generous in these uncertain times and also my Wife Emma who has put up with me turning to this project at every spare moment for the last couple of months, when not working or having family time, also for being proof reader and that voice of reason when I suggest we could ride through a burning ring of fire (well, not quite, but you get my gist!!)