West Lothian Bike Library
Using adaptive bikes to provide a welcoming space for people of all abilities.
West Lothian Bike Library is a Community Interest Company helping people to get active and connected to others through cycling. Aiming to tackle health inequalities in Livingston, they want to make cycling accessible for all, regardless of ability, income, or background. They provide servicing and repairs, cycle training and led rides, reconditioned bikes, and loans of e-bikes and adaptive bikes. If cost is a barrier for people, bikes are donated or loaned free of charge.
David Liddell, founding member of West Lothian Bike Library, reports that physical disabilities are a huge barrier to cycling for many people. Alongside cycle training for all abilities and equipment support, the organisation runs an inclusive cycling scheme with a pool of adaptive bikes for people with additional support needs.
Research in Scotland on access to bikes in 2020 showed that only 18% of bikes schemes offered loan of adaptive bikes for people with disabilities, suggesting that more wide-reaching support is needed.
How the funding has helped
In 2019, West Lothian Bike Library received £1,140 through the Cycling Friendly Community Fund for another adaptive bike to add to their fleet. As younger users of the adaptive bikes were growing older and taller, they needed access to bikes with larger frames. The funding has helped to increase the range of sizes of bike they have to offer people.
In years prior, they also received funding to create a maintenance hub, and to help with associated costs for delivering training, events, and repair services.
West Lothian Bike Library are now able to provide support to other third sector organisations supporting people with physical disabilities. Fabb, an organisation that encourages and supports young disabled people to participate in activities, gives young people the chance to ride unique and bespoke adaptive bikes via their Blazing Saddles project. Thanks to the wide range available, one of the biggest fleets in Scotland, West Lothian Bike Library can support Fabb by supplying adaptive bikes for their activities across the country.
The cost of bikes can be another huge barrier to cycling. West Lothian Bike Library receive referrals from a diverse range of organisations including Home Aid, Refugee Support Teams and Domestic Violence Units – to provide reconditioned bikes and training for people in need.
David tells us of the transformative nature this can have on people’s lives: “We had one young man come to us last year- he’d just got a job with Deliveroo and wanted to see if we could service his bike - but his bike was in such a state that it was cheaper for us to just give him one! We had an open day six months later and he was doing great – working hard and had even got himself a council flat. The fact that we gave him a bike that was probably only worth about £50 helped turn his life around! That’s when you go away at the end of the day proud.”
Supporting people with autism
David tells us of one young girl on the autistic spectrum and with additional support needs who was ‘scared stiff’ of bikes before becoming involved in their sessions. “She now runs group rides on a Monday - when restrictions allow - when previously she wouldn’t go near a bike. We got her going fairly quickly. We even managed to get her mum cycling too, which was arguably harder! Their whole family volunteer with us now. We have a lot of people who come to the sessions and stay with us, some who’ve been here since day one.”
Due to the popularity and demand for their one-to-one maintenance sessions with young people on the autistic spectrum, West Lothian Bike Library plan to expand this project.
Developing the cycling community in Livingston
To deliver their maintenance and outreach sessions more sustainably, they have recently been awarded funding from Sestrans for a new cargo bike and trailer to use in place of a van - reducing emissions and improving air quality in their community.
Remaining focused on inclusivity, the organisation plan to continue supporting people with additional needs with cycling, and promoting the need for others to do so, too. “There are a lot more projects and organisations that are investing in adaptive bikes - but it’s still a long way short of the demand”, says David.
Gold Cycling Friendly Community award
In recognition of their inclusive outreach projects to promote cycling for all, and their dedication to improving long-term cycling development in the area, West Lothian Bike Library have achieved the Gold Cycling Friendly Community award. David speaks in glowing terms about their involvement with the Cycling Friendly award process: “We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for Cycling Scotland giving us backing. We’re very proud to have the Gold award - and we make sure people know that we have it!”
Find out more about becoming a Cycling Friendly Community.