Access Sport: Inclusive cycling in South Bristol
“The sessions have been really enjoyable and it’s incredible how much progress they are all making.
It’s clear to see that physical activity makes a big difference to this group, particularly during such a challenging time.”
– Heidi, BMX coach
Founded in 2006, Access Sport trains, equips and supports community sports clubs, organisations and volunteers to provide inclusive programmes, unleashing their potential to transform lives of underserved young people in their local communities. Part of this work includes developing local open access cycling facilities in order to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people in deprived communities and people living with a disability.
Bristol is one of the UK’s leading cycling cities, with over a quarter of its residents cycling at least once a week, however among particular groups in society, cycling activity drops significantly. Hartcliffe and Stockwood in South Bristol are in the top 10% of deprivation in the country, where young people are less likely to have the opportunity to cycle, due to financial barriers and few or no safe places to ride.
Access Sport’s Cycling Inclusion work helps young people in deprived communities to put cycling into action as a life skill, whether for sport or in their day-to-day life.
Since 2017 it has worked directly with primary and secondary schools, special education needs schools, pupil referral units and community groups to provide cycle coaching and bike maintenance classes in Hartcliffe and Stockwood. The programme also aims to develop confidence and emotional wellbeing, as well as teamwork, communication and leadership skills. Over the last 12 months, the charity has appointed a local community activator in Bristol, upskilled six new coaches and volunteers and appointed four new ‘Young Leaders’ to support a growing interest in cycling.
For the last three years Access Sport has been working with the communities in Hartcliffe and Stockwood, developing two bike tracks in these areas of South Bristol where previously young people had few sporting facilities. A brand new pump track was built in Hartcliffe in 2020 and quickly became a valuable resource for the local community during the pandemic; in July 2020 alone the bike track saw over 15,000 individual visits. In May 2022, Stockwood Bike Park was redeveloped and enhanced to develop a state of the art, open access pump track and jump track. Each of these tracks hosts community cycling opportunities with the long term aim to provide sustainable cycling for all in the local community.
The charity approached SMV in January 2022 with a request to extend the reach of Access Sport’s Cycling Inclusion work in South Bristol. Funding of £5,000 enabled the programme to coach an additional 250 young people in Hartcliffe and Stockwood, many of whom are excluded from education, or suffer from attention or behavioural issues.
Feedback from participants highlights the real and positive benefit of the programme to expand their horizons through cycling. Eight out of ten participants say they have higher levels of confidence and are more motivated to do more activity or sport since attending the courses, while over 70% of them recognised improvements in their communication and social skills. In the past year, Access Sport has coached over 1,100 young people in South Bristol and local statistics have shown a 52% drop in youth anti-social behaviour, which the charity believes has been helped by the opening of the outstanding new facilities in the area.
Jacob is currently excluded from mainstream school and is being home educated; as part of his home education, he has been volunteering at the bike track in Hartcliffe. He helps around the track, kitting up the riders and giving them tips and tricks. Volunteering at the bike track has now led to Jacob undertaking a six-week bike mechanic course with local bike mechanics, Fixx Bikes.