Yusuf Youth Initiative
Using bikes to connect families and upskill young people in the community.
Youth development in Dundee
Yusuf Youth Initiative is a community group delivering activities to improve the health and wellbeing of young people in Dundee. The community group aims to create strong and healthy young people and help them to understand inequalities and how they can engage in activism to create change.
In 2016, Yusuf Youth Initiative received £4,795 in funding from Cycling Scotland to buy a fleet of children’s bikes to start running Bikeability classes, the national cycling proficiency programme for kids. This introduction to cycling created a new interest in the youth group. The kids expressed how much they loved learning to ride a bike, and the impact spread wider as their parents started digging bikes out of their sheds so they could go for family cycles.
As interest and demand grew, Yusuf Youth Initiative expanded their offering to include adult cycle lessons, group rides, and bike mechanics classes.
Through the Cycling Friendly Community Fund, they received £13,525 in 2019 to buy more bikes, equipment, and bike storage facilities - to help teach more people to cycle and maintain their bikes.
The impact of introducing cycling to Yusuf Youth Initiative has been huge. Before lockdown restrictions they were engaging with over 200 young people every week across their range of programmes, with cycling proving a massively popular choice.
In 2020, responding to demand, the community group set up ‘Bikeium’, a new social enterprise focussing on cycle training, bike maintenance and repairs and servicing - to bring all their cycling activity under one roof.
They now have a fleet of adults and kids bikes to loan out to the community to learn to cycle and take part in activities, and staff trained to deliver Bikeability, led rides and bike maintenance classes.
Barriers to active travel
A major barrier to active travel, particularly in Scotland’s minority ethnic population, is not knowing how to ride a bike, or being able to afford one.
Through Bikeium, adult cycle training is offered to beginners. Bikes are loaned out at no cost to the participants, to learn how to ride and to take part in group rides. Many adult beginners borrowed bikes throughout the pandemic to develop their cycling skills.
One participant had been watching her adult son taking her grandkids out on bikes during the summer whilst the roads were quiet due to restrictions. She felt sad that she couldn’t join them because she’d never learned how to ride a bike.
She approached Bikeium, and was able to start 1 to 1 lessons, developing her confidence to cycle on the roads of Dundee. Within five weeks, she was able to cycle independently and join her family on cycling trips. Delighted with being able to spend quality time with her family, she also enjoyed the health benefits of introducing physical activity into her life.
Isa Mallick, project manager with Yusuf Youth Initiative, shares the impact the project has had on a young participant: “Rayan was seven years old when she first engaged with us. After trying cycling once, she got off the bike and wouldn’t get back on, and she wouldn’t come back to the classes. She had fallen behind the course to the point where her friends had learned how to pedal and were moving on to Bikeability Level 1 and she couldn’t stay on the bike yet.
“After talking to her family, we managed to get her back to the next beginner session and she really wanted to catch up to the level of her friends - her attitude totally changed. It took a few sessions, but we got her cycling. To see her smiling and confident was just fantastic, when previously she had been scared and tearful. Rayan would say she’d been looking forward to the session all week.
“We worked with her for a few years, and now she has passed Bikeability Level 3 and is able to ride on roads on her own. She even leads on sections of our led rides as a confident 12 year old!”
Working with Cycling Scotland
Isa speaks in glowing terms about working with Cycling Scotland, saying that the original funding “acted as a springboard to the position we are in today” and that working with Cycling Scotland has been “a hugely positive experience”.
Aside from the funding, he says that speaking to the approachable Development Officers was a great source of ideas for future projects, and the reporting offers the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate your project without being too time-consuming.
In 2019, the Yusuf Youth Initiative achieved the Cycling Friendly Community Gold award, which is reserved for community groups who are creating and delivering a long-term plan for developing cycling in their community. Isa says it was great to be recognised for the work they are doing.
Once Covid-19 restrictions ease, Yusuf Youth Initiative are looking to press on with their Cycle-to-Mosque campaign – a Cycling Scotland-funded initiative to encourage active travel to places of worship.
Many Muslims travel to their local mosque every day, and Isa Mallick estimates that the majority of Dundee-based mosque attendees drive a car to get there. Part of the campaign will include introducing a bike bus to support those less confident on roads with a group ride to get there and back. Mosques around Dundee will also benefit from the installation of bike shelters, so that there will be somewhere safe to store bikes whilst inside.
Find out more about becoming a Cycling Friendly Community.