A cycle-hire facility which will allow disabled visitors to enjoy cycling around one of the citys most popular beauty spots opened its doors to the public for the first time today.
The building at Westport Lake will act as the hub for the Green Door Project, which is aimed at encouraging people, particularly older and disabled members of society, to make more use of green spaces in the city to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
Construction work on the building started in June and is now complete. It will house 11 specially adapted bikes which will be available for low-cost hire, allowing disabled visitors to cycle around the lake’s one mile-long level pathway.
The adapted bikes include ones specifically suited for wheelchair users who remain seated in their wheelchairs while riding, while others are upper body powered. There will also be a number of standard cycles.
The hub opened its doors to potential users of the facility today to give them the chance to have a look around and find out more about the scheme. The bikes will be available to hire from tomorrow.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transportation, said:
“This is a very exciting day for the Green Door Project and a big step forward for what we are trying to deliver.
“The new hub building is looking great and we’ve had a huge amount of interest from people asking about how they can hire the bikes.
“Cycling is a real fun activity and these bikes will help to revolutionise leisure facilities for disabled people by removing barriers and opening cycling up to everyone"
A total of £340,000 has been provided to the Green Door Project by the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities programme, with top-up funding from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and NHS Stoke-on-Trent’s Healthy City project. Kier Stoke also contributed to the project and carried out the construction of the cycling facility.
As well as the cycle-hire facility, the project is providing a huge range of activities city-wide, such as guided walks, relaxation classes, confidence building, digital photography and art classes.
The 72 square metres building is being built adjacent to the access road between the two car parks next to the lake and will be mainly staffed by volunteers. It includes a project office for the Green Door scheme.
People having a go on the bikes at the lake today gave the project a resounding seal of approval.
For Katy Owen, it was the first time the 49-year-old had been on a bike. Katy, who lives in Weston Coyney, suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare condition which causes fragile bones.
“It was very exciting being on a bike for the first time. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to have a go but the bike was specially adapted so I could remain seated in my chair while one of the volunteers cycled behind me, which was great.
“It was nice being able to feel the wind blowing in my face when we went around the lake. I’ll definitely come back and have another go.”
Her carer Belinda Blackburn, aged 30, who also lives in Weston Coyney, said:
“I think it’s a really good idea. It’s a beautiful lake and it’s good that everyone has the opportunity to cycle around it.”
Claire Cheskin, who lives in London and suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), was visiting friends in Stoke-on-Trent and called in at Westport Lake to have a go on one of the bikes.
The 53-year-old said:
“It was really good fun. The bikes are great and easy to use and it’s a beautiful setting at the lake. I have a specially made bike but it cost £1,000 so a scheme like this where people can hire them for a low-cost will be financially attractive to a lot of people.
“I don’t think it will just be people from Stoke-on-Trent using these bikes, I can see them coming from miles around.”
John Beech, chairman of Stoke-on-Trent Area Network for Disability (STAND), said:
“This is fantastic news for people in the city with a disability or who are suffering from long-term illness.
“I’m disabled myself and although I’m not able to use a normal bicycle, I will be able to use these ones which are being offered for hire.
“The location for the facility couldn’t be better and what pleases me is that this will be something which people can use for years to come, not just for a few weeks or months.
“I think the project team and the city council should be thanked for all the hard work they’ve put in to make this happen.”
Kier managing director David Mawson said:
“We’re proud to support this project. It will improve lives for thousands of people in Stoke-on-Trent and encourage lifestyle changes that promote physical and mental wellbeing.”