Mother-of-two Lisa Lecky was always an active person. She walked to and from work in Belfast every day. Two years ago she suffered a stroke which affected her left side. She has lost the power of her left arm and relies on a stick to walk. Now 40, Lisa never thought she’d be able to walk properly again, let alone cycle.
Thanks to her local Healthy Living Centre and Sustrans’ Community Active Travel Programme, funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA), Lisa has been able to enjoy cycling again through a specially-adapted trike. The Lower Ormeau Resident’s Action Group (LORAG) based at the Shaftesbury Community Recreation Centre, in South Belfast runs a weekly cycling group using reclining bikes, trikes and hand-bikes for people with disabilities.
“I can cycle with one arm using the trike bike,” said Lisa. “I have the brake and bell on the right side. Cycling helps me with my balance and core strength. Riding a bike is so much easier for me than walking. I love it! Sustrans then came into the group and developed our cycle skills and our confidence going out in groups. It’s been great fun and I like the fact that I can now go out cycling with my kids.”
Sustrans Community Active Travel Programme has been working with community groups over the past year in disadvantaged areas of Belfast to promote walking and cycling for all.
Grandmother Julie Fox, from Ballybeen has found a new lease of life through a return to walking. “I was told to go out and get fresh air for my asthma. My doctor says walking is good for my hip. I can now walk, I couldn’t walk before and I was on walking sticks. So this is great.”
Julie and Lisa are just two of over 500 people we have worked with since March in South and East Belfast, and Ballybeen. The participants have aged from 18 to 90 years old, with some getting on a bicycle for the first time in 25 years.
Among a range of activities Sustrans’ programme has helped organise led walks, including a successful women’s group in Ballybeen; donated bikes to the East Belfast Wise Men’s Shed with cycle training and bike maintenance skills for the group.
These highlights of the year are featured in a short film to be premiered at an event on Tues 21 Nov in east Belfast to celebrate the achievements of communities in the programme to date and showcase what can be done with other interested areas in the North and West of the city.
Steven Patterson, Sustrans Delivery Manager said: “Sustrans is delighted to see so many individuals and communities walking and cycling more as a result of their participation in the Community Active Travel Programme. This is increasing the amount of exercise they take with the benefits that brings and also increasing opportunities for low cost, environmentally friendly travel.
“We are delighted to support these communities as they develop their capacity to lead activities through the skills they have learnt in the programme and we look forward to expanding the programme to North and West Belfast in the coming months.”
David Tumilty, Health Improvement Manager at the PHA said: “Research shows that increasing participation in walking and cycling reduces your risk of developing chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and respiratory conditions. It also improves sleep, helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces stress and anxiety.
“There is a lot of good work already taking place within communities to improve health and reduce inequalities. The Community Active Travel Programme provides a great opportunity for more communities to enhance this work and that’s why we would like to encourage community groups in north and west Belfast to get involved.”
Sustrans is keen to hear from communities in North and West Belfast who would like to participate in the Community Active Travel Programme from January 2018.