News that GP’s are to prescribe cycle to reduce obesity, makes us wonder how this might be implemented where we live.
Cycling infrastructure won’t be improved to any significant degree across Staffordshire. Recently the County Council only received half the funding allocation of emergency money for enabling cycling available to it, as it’s plans weren’t ambitious enough. Other areas across the country got more than their allocation after demonstrating immediate and serious plans to improve cycling conditions.
Without universal segregated infrastructure, to make cycling a sustainable and long term health benefit, riders will need to be confident on the roads as they are now. This is challenging for those with less confidence as we are already seeing traffic returning to levels similar to earlier in the year.
Other funding announced by the Government has hardly touched Staffordshire. When we took an enquiry from the north of the county about bikes for key workers, we found that between our friends at Walsall Bike Project and Crewe, there were no Cycling UK/Big Bike Revival funded projects providing free bikes for key workers. In Lichfield, we have used funding from Staffordshire County Council, Lichfield District Council and Tesco to scale up our work to provide bikes for key workers and to people for health reasons over the past few months.
What it shows is that there is a need across the county to join up all the confidence building schemes, rides and clubs with information about free or affordable ways to get hold of a bike. Not just any old bike, but importantly the right bike for a person’s height and health that will allow them to achieve what they want to do.
In Lichfield District, we provide free long term loan bikes and the advice, guidance and confidence building needed to use a bike over the long term. We don’t do repairs as that is what our local independent bike shops do well and they have supported our work in return.
For us to work with someone over a 6 month period with a free loan bike and the support needed to be confident to maintain and ride it, we would value this service at £50 per person per month. Perhaps a relatively small amount for such a social prescription, considering the current cost to the NHS of inactivity and the pressure the service is under.