As we approach the 200th bike to be handed out to keyworkers across Oxford, writes Kathryn McNicoll, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the extraordinary success of this project.

Bikes for Keyworkers grew out of the Windrush Bike Project in Witney – that project was doing so well that it became obvious that Oxford City deserved the same treatment. Active Oxfordshire teamed up with Cyclox to set up the scheme and I was asked, as a member of the Cyclox Committee, to coordinate the donors, volunteer mechanics and keyworkers.

Would I have taken this on if I had known that it would totally dominate my life for three months? Absolutely! The donors find a good use for the bikes they no longer use; the volunteer mechanics hone their bike repair skills and the keyworkers are given a healthy option for commuting to work. What’s not to like?

Every donated bike goes to a volunteer mechanic for servicing and is then checked off by a qualified volunteer mechanic or a shop. The keyworkers also receive a lock, lights and a goodie bag full of information from us.

Not every bike we have been given has been repairable, but those which were not have been broken down for spare parts which the mechanics have shared around. At one time, there were 18 mechanics round the city working on bikes in their sheds and garages. It has been a wonderful team effort and meeting all the different mechanics has been a treat. Active Oxfordshire meanwhile have been raising the money and are now organising how the project will move forwards. There are exciting initiatives for bike training for some of the keyworkers and for children who have missed out on Bikeability due to COVID.

Why only NHS keyworkers? We recognise that there are many people who have worked irelessly throughout the pandemic, it was a simple matter of numbers. The initial appeal went out to NHS staff and the response was overwhelming: the list of people waiting for bikes is still very long and, sadly, many NHS keyworkers will still miss out.

Still, 200 extra cyclists (so far) round the city must be good news and the stats from Active Oxfordshire show that the number of keyworkers cycling to work has increased significantly.

Has the project made a difference to keyworkers in Oxford? Here are a few, just a very few, of the many quotes from them:

‘This is the best thing that has happened to me all year’

‘I feel like a queen’;

‘It’s nothing short of a miracle I am back riding’;

‘My whole family got inspired’;

‘I cannot wait to get back to normality and start riding to work again’;

‘It really, really means something to me’;

‘I’ve just taken my new bike for a spin, it’s absolutely fantastic. Thank you so so much to you and your colleagues who make it possible’.

No, thank YOU keyworkers for all you are doing for us.