This inspiring project supports people in Belfast with acquired brain injuries to get cycling. The project is a partnership with the local charity Brain Injury Matters, and has grown in strength since it began a few years ago.
Clients of Brain Injury Matters on a Sustrans side-by-side bike at the Active Travel Hub in east Belfast.
Clients supported by Brain Injury Matters meet at the Active Travel Hub at CS Lewis Square in east Belfast every Friday morning, where Sustrans colleagues and volunteers help the group on a range of adapted cycles.
Pedal Power Fridays, as they're known, began with just one cycle — our side-by-side bike.
This popular bike, as the name suggests, allows two people to cycle but one is the pilot responsible for steering.
Improves coordination and strength
This bike is also used to enable older people or people with dementia to enjoy cycling and being outdoors.
The fleet has grown to include a number of ICE trikes – an acronym for Inspired Cycling Engineering – owned by Brain Injury Matters.
The ICE Recumbent Trike places the rider in a reclining position, which makes balance easier.
Participants of Pedal Power Fridays benefit from interacting with their peers and get to enjoy the sensory benefits of cycling outdoors.
The initiative also develops participants’ coordination, endurance and strength.
The location at CS Lewis Square is ideal because it is safe and well-connected.
It joins up with both the Comber Greenway and the traffic-free Connswater Greenway to Victoria Park, where many service users like to do several circuits.
Describing his experience of the project, he said:
“I feel healthier and happier. It’s definitely good for my mental health.
“Just getting out into the fresh air, being independent again and free to go where you want, when you want is great.”
Cycle training instructor Amanda with the side-by-side bike.
Freedom and independence cycling
Amanda Hodkinson, Sustrans Cycle Training Instructor, said:
“The introduction of the ICE trikes has given everyone an enormous sense of independence and they love it.
“The most common thing I hear the service users report is a sense of freedom, recapturing an independence they had lost, and breaking out of their usual confines of reduced mobility.
“The programme is community rehabilitation and as such a lot of health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists have visited to see for themselves.
“The most important thing is the sense of belonging we all feel as part of this club.”