In this guest blog, we hear from Hannah about her experience of borrowing an e-cycle for free for a month to commute to work, attend hospital appointments, and to boost her fitness levels. Through our Welsh Government-funded E-Move project Hannah, from Swansea, is helping to lead by example for the communities in her area by encouraging active travel.
Hannah has been using her e-cycle to travel to and from work, which has helped her show others the positive impact cycling can have on health. Credit: Hannah Sabatia\Sustrans
My name is Hannah Sabatia.
I’m a 46-year-old black African woman.
I live in Swansea and work for Swansea Council for Voluntary Services (SCVS) in the city centre as the Black, Asian and Minority Outreach Programme Development Officer.
A big part of my role involves sharing key health messages with the diverse communities we have in Swansea, to help improve health and mitigate health inequalities.
I also create platforms to share these key messages, whether that’s through groups, healthy eating classes, or physical activities.
Getting active to help with health problems
As part of my work, we started a swim and cycle group to fill a need that came out of a group session.
We were talking about diabetes risk factors and ways to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in the community.
During these sessions, most participants, who were ethnic minority women, had mentioned to me that they didn’t know how to swim or cycle – both of which are recommended activities to stay healthy.
So, we agreed to start a group to help encourage learning and participation in these activities.
This group has now grown to over 70 participants.
The idea is to approach the barriers people face head on, by attending cycling sessions at BikeAbility to learn cycling skills and then find bikes so that people can keep practising.
Exploring e-cycles as an option for travel
I first heard of Sustrans’ E-Move through my work at SCVS.
The idea of travelling actively was well received, and the organisation signed up to the Swansea Bay Healthy Travel Charter.
I volunteered to be involved with this, and that’s how I heard about the e-bikes from one of the managers.
I contacted Paul, the local Sustrans project officer, and we agreed to meet and talk about it.
My mind went to the members of the swim and cycle group, too, thinking how they would benefit, but I knew I needed to lead by example first.
Using a free e-cycle to get around
I signed my e-bike contract on 7 September and was nervous at first but found that I managed to get on with it after a while.
Since then, I’ve enjoyed some nice rides to and from work.
Recently, I was able to attend my hospital appointment with the bike, which was a great experience.
I’ve not only enjoyed the bike, but also shared my experience with a few other interested people from the swim and cycle group.
So far, about five others are in touch with Sustrans to arrange their own e-bike loan.
The importance of making active travel available to everyone
As good as things have been, there have been some challenges, too.
The weather, a lack of cycling space on the road, and a lack of places to lock your bike around the city – especially in the hospitals.
That’s not too much, though, when compared with the health benefits that come from cycling.
The e-bike is small in size and easy to propel forward, meaning I don’t feel too tired after cycling it around, even on a hilly area.
I get to my destination quicker than walking, and sometimes faster than a car.
Moving forward, I’d like to keep this bike, or one like this one because I feel motivated to cycle to work most times when it’s dry.
I’d also like to see more people from the swim and cycle group cycling as they move forward, to achieve their goals of learning the two skills and improving their health and wellbeing.
Funds have been a problem to find a swimming teacher, but this E-Move initiative is a great idea for encouraging cycling.
I hope this kind of health and wellbeing initiative will be prioritised, and I hope one day soon we’ll all gather for a celebration and a group ride along the coast to Mumbles on the Swansea Bike Path.
If you're interested in borrowing an e-cycle for free for a month and live in Swansea or the nearby area, please contact Sustrans' Liveable Cities and Towns Officer, Paul Thomas.