The Stockton Hub is the UK’s first active travel and cycle parking centre.
It offers free information and advice on all aspects of cycling and walking, including guided rides and walks, and training courses on cycle maintenance.
Since its launch, the Hub has received hundreds of donated bikes which are reconditioned by volunteers then sold for a reasonable price or made available to vulnerable people in the community.
Working in partnership with the Arrivals Practice in Norton, the Hub has given out around 300 reconditioned bikes to refugees and asylum seekers in the area. The bikes are made available based upon a doctor’s referral and they are reconditioned on our premises by trained volunteers and staff members.
Elvis Katoto is a care coordinator and counsellor at the Arrival Practice, a GP surgery working with asylum seekers to support the community with mental and physical health issues. He believes that the bikes provided by the Hub "bring a smile to peoples' faces"
“The GPs at the practice always say it’s working as the patient’s mental health is getting better because they are getting out on two or three different bike rides a week, he says.
“We have people on care plans who have no sign of diabetes after six months of cycling. I didn’t expect the impact to be so great.”
"I come from a country where if you ride a bike you’re poor, but here you’re a normal person getting around.
"I moved to Stockton in 2006, and I decided to change my lifestyle to add fitness and diet into my life.
"Most places I go to are close to home. I started cycling to work and to the gym.
"When the weather allows, whether it’s in my shorts or a suit, I’ll go by bike. It’s more convenient for me and I don’t have to pay charges.
"I feel good being on the bike, it gets me out of the house and adds to my weekly fitness goals."
Not only has cycling benefitted Elvis, but through his work at Arrival Practice, he has also seen the benefits that active travel can have on refugees and asylum seekers.
"I work with asylum seekers and help people access bikes at The Hub. If clients are on a care plan, we work with them closely and give them a bike.
"They attend bike rides at The Hub on Thursdays and Fridays.
"One man had diabetes and mental health issues and became a regular here. His condition has now stabilised and he doesn’t need to come as regularly.
"Bikes bring a smile to peoples’ faces. We have people who don’t get out in ages but since they’ve got a bike you see them in town.
"I didn’t expect the impact to be so great and the number of people affected. I work in the community and many locals know The Hub.
"We have given bikes to 300 people. Many people are lonely and not feeling good about their health.
"The GPs at the practice always say it’s working, as the patient’s mental health is getting better because they are getting out on two or three different bike rides a week.
"We have people on care plans who have no sign of diabetes after six months of cycling.
"Change happens in communities. They feel special and feel welcome in this town and their health improves.
"They still have a lot of challenges but they can meet people, reach places, smile and go to places they need to get to – libraries, colleges, churches.
"It’s much easier to motivate them to go to college when they have a bike. It feels like a reward for them. "
Deniz and Negi, both from Iran, have both received bikes that were donated to the Hub. They believe that having an accessible mode of transport has helped them settle in the community and adjust to their new way of life.
"I use the bike a lot, to go to the gym or to go shopping. In the afternoon I go biking with my friends and take photos at the river
"People are very friendly and having a bicycle helps us to feel welcome. When I had problems with the bike, the people at the Hub showed us how to repair it and we can park the bikes" said Deniz
"I like to ride the bicycle because it helps me to lose weight and I enjoy getting out and becoming familiar with this new culture. We want to know about this culture," Negi said.
"It was difficult for us as it’s very different from Iran – we have to remember which way to look! They gave us a map to show us the way. We come to the Hub for repairs and we use it as a parking place."