National Lottery-funded cycle project plans big Jubilee picnic
As a teenager with cerebral palsy, Simon Jenkins was unable to ride a bike because his legs were too weak to turn the pedals. Refusing to give up, he discovered the stability and relaxed riding position of a tricycle allowed him to get out and about.
Simon said, “I used to wear my old school shoes because they had heels I could hook over the pedals and keep my feet in place. I used the tricycle to go all over the place and even did a paper round on it.”
When Simon got his driving licence at the age of 18, the tricycle was stored away and forgotten. But when he retired from his civil service job at the end of 2020, the 55-year-old from Benfleet in Essex had a renewed hankering for some three-wheeled fun.
Fortunately, his sister-in-law alerted him to Just Ride Southend, a National Lottery-supported project running inclusive cycling sessions for people of all ages and abilities. Nowadays, Simon regularly completes about 20 laps (5 miles) of the athletics track at the Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre in the company of people riding a fleet of regular and adapted cycles.
He said, “It feels really good to be cycling again. At first I couldn’t get the pedals to turn, but the Just Ride Southend volunteers didn’t give up. They shortened the tricycle’s pedal cranks and made the seat higher and I was fine after that.”
Gwen Cook, a teacher and keen cyclist, got involved in Just Ride Southend after attending a Big Lunch Extras Community Camp at the National Lottery-funded Eden Project.
The Big Lunch, an annual event bringing people together to share food, have fun and get to know each other, is just one of the amazing projects made possible by National Lottery players, who raise over £30Million each week for good causes.
This year, to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years of service, the event has been renamed The Big Jubilee Lunch. Just Ride Southend is planning its own right royal celebration on 4th June 2022. After the regular Saturday morning ride is finished, the riders, their friends and family, will enjoy a Big Jubilee Lunch picnic on the grass.
Gwen said the aim of Just Ride Southend is to enable anyone – absolutely anyone – to enjoy cycling. She said, “You get grandparents riding with their great grandchildren and families who have a member with additional needs or a disability all riding together.”
The dizzying array of bikes on offer at Just Ride Southend is the key to its success. As well as conventional two-wheeled cycles and tricycles, it has side-by-side bikes, hand cranked trikes, semi-recumbent trikes and wheelchair ramp bikes allowing a wheelchair to be reversed onto the bike.
Gwen said, “It’s an amazing feeling watching people cycling around and see that they’re just beaming.”
Simon is certainly determined to keep up his regular cycling sessions. He said, “I enjoy walking, but it can strain my back as my body has adapted from an early age to use my back muscles. Cycling isn’t like that. It’s a nice bit of exercise that doesn’t put strain on other bits of my body.”
27th April 2022
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