As the gravity of the climate crisis becomes more apparent, governments are setting goals to reduce the carbon emissions of their countries and states through a variety of means. The UK, for instance, aims to have at least half of all journeys in towns and cities be cycled or walked by the year 2030, as outlined in its Decarbonizing Transport report.
Those who learned how to ride a bike at an early age may think that giving their vehicles (and the world) a break by hopping on a bicycle is a simple and easy choice—but for individuals who have never had access to bikes or were never taught to ride them, the thought of cycling through a bustling city like London can be a scary one.
That’s why the environmental charity Hubbub, Poplar Harca housing association and the walking and cycling charity Sustrans have worked together to launch a pop-up bicycle library in Tower Hamlets, London’s most deprived borough. The “cycle-hub” opened in Poplar in 2021 and is a place where local children and adults can borrow bikes for free.
Studies show that women, especially those from minority communities, aren’t as likely to view bicycles as a viable form of transportation for themselves or their families for several reasons.
The goal of this month-long project is to remove the many barriers people may face, such as not being able to access equipment and concerns about safety, that may stop them from cycling in London. Chrisp Street Community Cycles supports the cause by offering free cycle advice, bike repairs, and guided rides to help participants feel more confident on a bike.
“Cycling offers many benefits towards creating sustainable and thriving neighborhoods—from providing a low-cost way to travel, to reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our fitness levels,” says Babu Bhattacherjee, director of communities and neighborhoods at Poplar Harca.
“But a lack of access, storage, and confidence can all be barriers in getting people in Poplar on to bikes. That’s why initiatives such as this, that give opportunities for residents to borrow and learn about bikes, are essential if we want to encourage more cycling in our communities.”
The bicycle library joins other cycling initiatives in London, such as Cycle Sisters, a charity that helps Muslim women gain confidence in their biking abilities.