Michael volunteers with the Thursday Squad – a group that helps maintain the National Cycle Network in Renfrewshire. After a collision with a car left him with serious injuries, Michael has continued to make the effort to meet up with his fellow volunteers whenever he can.
Michael has been volunteering with the Thursday Squad since retiring in 2011, and in 2023 has been personally recognised with an Inspiring Volunteering nomination. Credit: Sustrans
The group meets weekly to litter pick, remove graffiti, sweep broken glass and cut back branches and vegetation from the path.
Michael has been part of the group since retiring in 2011, and in 2023, has been personally recognised with an Inspiring Volunteering nomination.
In this blog, he speaks to us about how he got back to volunteering with the support of the group after a collision with a car left him partially paralysed.
Giving time to Sustrans
"I lived near the National Cycle Network, had a bike and thought volunteering with Sustrans was something I’d like to get involved with". He said:
"I met up with the people and instantly thought this is great and something I’ll really enjoy.
"Everybody gets along so well with each other; we are all like-minded and interested in the same sort of things.
"So, I took it from there and got signed up.
"I wanted to give something back because I had the time and was young and fit at that point."
In his own words, Michael was “run over by a car” five years ago, when he was out on his bike on a minor road. He spent many months in hospital and rehab. Credit: Sustrans
A life-changing collision
Michael was in a collision with a car five years ago while out on his bike.
Following the incident, he spent several months in the spinal unit of a hospital and in rehabilitation. He said:
"I’m paralysed from the waist down.
"I can walk with sticks, but still find it hard going up stairs".
From walking to cycling again
Even when taking his first steps after the accident, Michael made the effort to meet up with his Thursday Squad companions whenever he could. He explained:
"After the accident, it’s really difficult because you think 'can I do anything?'
"I’ve tried to focus on what I used to do, for example, can I walk? Yes, I can walk a bit.
"I have always had a bike - when I was out of the hospital, I went to a place called Free Wheel North in Glasgow, where I tried a variety of e-trikes and bikes.
"I started peddling okay - it was a job to keep my feet in the peddles to start with, but I managed to get going."
It took Michael some time to find a cycle which best suited his needs. He added:
"In lockdown I bought a Brompton which has been great because you can step through it, and I got a switch kit which makes it even easier to use.
"So, then I went back to litter picking.
"While I can’t walk along carrying a bag, I can attach a trailer to the back of my bike to carry the rubbish."
Ian, Thursday Squad Coordinator (left) with a fellow volunteer out on the Network. Credit: Sustrans
A supportive environment
Michael’s fellow volunteers have been there to support him each step of the way.
"When I was in hospital, someone from the group came to visit me every week – to the point that I got in trouble with the nurses for not going to my classes.
"Before I got the Brompton, Ian (the Thursday Squad Coordinator), made a push-along trolly with a walking stick and basket in front so I could pick up litter locally.
"With their support I was able to get back to the group and take part in the activities.
"No one is expecting anything of me - I take my sticks with me and do what I can.
"It’s given me motivation. Just doing something, it gets your life back.
"Plus, there’s the social side of it, meeting and talking to different people and members of the public."
Ian explains that Michael stands out from the crowd because of his approach to recovery over the years. He said:
"It’s a credit to him and his determination to overcome what was a very serious accident and the consequences of it."
With the support of the group Michael has been able to get back to volunteering. Ian has made a push along trolly and trailer that attaches to Michael's Brompton so he can pick up litter locally. Credit: Sustrans
Recognition for volunteering
Michael tells us it’s been a humbling experience receiving the Inspiring Volunteering nomination. He said:
"There are plenty of other folk doing amazing work.
"It’s nice for me to be recognised as someone who has got a disability and can do things – I think it’s important."
Ian and the Thursday Squad have also been nominated this year.
The group has been running for over 20 years and many of the regulars are well known faces in the local community. Credit: Sustrans
The team efforts of the Thursday Squad
The group has an average weekly turnout of 10 volunteers in all weathers, each ready to do their bit to help maintain the Network.
In 2023, they filled 380 sacks with litter collected over 50 days.
The group has been running for over 20 years, and many of the regulars are well-known faces in the local community.
The volunteers take on a lot of out of the ordinary tasks to maintain the track to a high standard, making walking, wheeling and cycling in the area safer and more accessible for everyone.
And what's next for the group?
"Litter picking – same time next week".