On the week the plan for a cafe and community activity centre in the park’s old Coach House and potting shed were given the go-ahead, thanks to a £580,000 Lottery Heritage Fund grant to Age UK Sheffield, Rosemary and colleagues from Sheffield Cycling 4 All were tricycling around the park to launch a new trike loan scheme for Sheffielders who cannot ride a two-wheeled cycle.
“We want Hillsborough Park to be the most accessible park in Sheffield,” says Rosemary, “somewhere where anyone can go and enjoy the outdoors.”
More than 940 people have taken part in the unique cycling scheme at Hillsborough over the last four years.
This spring, following their own £400,000 grant from the Lottery Community Fund – the largest made to a cycling project, says Rosemary – the project was due to launch a host of new tricycling activities, for people recovering from strokes or brain injuries, for visually impaired people wanting to cycle, for people with mental health problems and for families to cycle and tricycle together.
However, the arrival of Covid 19 put the plans on hold, for now.
“We work with a lot of vulnerable people,” says Rosemary, “but we hope to start the schemes when we can. The need is there.”
In the meantime, like everyone else, Rosemary and colleague Tom Collister have switched to Zoom to help riders with exercise classes at home.
The project in Hillsborough Park to promote cycling for people with disabilities is now in its 11th year, and has grown and grown over that time thanks to support from Disability Sheffield, Sheffield Council, Cycling UK and British Cycling, among others.
The project now has 32 different cycles for people with different needs, and nowadays battery-powered electric trikes are making personal, pedal-powered transport even more possible for people with disabilities.
One of the project’s original supporters is Caroline Waugh, from Totley.
She says: “My pedal assist trike is my legs. It's my personal assistant. It goes to the shops, the train station and the bus stop, the woods, taking my dog cycling. And all with me staying well.”
The new loan scheme, launched this week, is to offer a top-of-the-range pedal assist trike for hire to Sheffielders who can’t balance on a two wheeled bike.
There are four trikes available for loan so local people can try cycling for leisure and transport.
Rosemary says: “They’re the Rolls-Royce of trikes.”
The new project mirrors the city’s successful CycleBoost bike loan scheme, but with electric trikes, so people with disabilities can see if using a tricycle can offer them a way to make independent journeys around the city while improving their physical and mental health.
Tom says: “We hope this scheme will enable people to experience pedal power as a viable mode of disability transport.
“Alongside this, we will be campaigning for better cycling infrastructure in the city with the aim of giving people more independence and the option to travel in a way which benefits their health and the environment.”
He says there are still some ‘cycle routes’ in Sheffieldeffectively blocked to tricycle users with disabilities, due to old-fashioned barriers originally installed to deter motorcyclists.
Anyone interested in the tricycle loan scheme can contact the project via sheffieldcycling4all.org
Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey, Sheffield City Region’s active travel commissioner, is a supporter of the scheme.
She says: “Getting active as an individual or family is important for everyone and perhaps even more so for those who have other mobility challenges and need support for day-to-day activities.
“Having access to adapted bikes is something I am keen to help make easier for people across the region, and the example being set in Sheffield is very inspiring.”
The team is now running some individual sessions in the park under social distancing.
Rosemary says: “The ambition, the will and the money is there, so we’ll be starting up the rest of the projects as soon as we’re able.”