Every Thursday evening at 8pm people are out in the streets applauding, banging pots and pans, and playing music, to celebrate our NHS and social care workers. Even Tom Tower has turned blue for the first time ever to mark the moment each week. This outpouring of gratitude and support shows how much we as a nation care for our key workers as they take risks on our behalf to provide such dedicated care to those in desperate need.

Heading out for work is a particular issue for key workers as they can no longer travel by public transport without putting themselves at further risk. For those who either don’t have a car, or don’t want to travel by car, the only option is travelling by bike or foot.

Thankfully the government is recognising that travelling by bike and foot is an essential form of transport to reduce exposure to the virus and to enable daily exercise to keep us all physically and mentally fit. As we move out of lockdown, public transport will be operating at reduced capacity for a long time to come, so cycling will play a significant part in the recovery from this crisis.

Cyclox is delighted therefore to be partnering with Active Oxfordshire, a charity which works to increase physical activity, to provide bikes free of charge to NHS and social care key workers. We have set up a scheme, inspired by the wonderful work of the Windrush Bike Project in Witney. They have shown that there is a big demand from key workers for bikes.

How does our scheme work? We have put out a call for people to donate bikes that have maybe been lingering in sheds and garages unused but of reasonable quality. We have lots of volunteer mechanics who love doing up bikes and are giving their time willingly to help repair the donated bikes. Because our volunteers are not qualified mechanics, the bikes they have refurbished are then checked by bike shops to ensure roadworthiness, before being handed on to key workers.

We pay the bike shops for spare parts and for their time, contributing as well to the local economy. We estimate we need £10,000 and we are already more than halfway to that target which shows how much our community wants to support this project.

We are two weeks into the project and as of this Sunday:

l 120 key workers have applied for a free bike

l 12 volunteer mechanics are refurbishing bikes

l 80 bikes have been donated

l 5 bike shops are helping out with the roadworthy check

l Nearly £6,000 has been raised.

This is a truly inspiring community project with so many wonderful people helping out. It has clearly captured the imagination of many in Oxford and in the county, and Cyclox is glad to be able to make a contribution during the Covid-19 crisis. But we can’t relax yet…. Demand is high and we have had to create a waiting list. We need more funds, we need more bikes, we need more volunteer mechanics. Please help!