Josh brings Big Bike Revival magic to Monty’s

Josh Allen (right) helped make the Big Bike Revival a huge success at Monty’s Community Hub in Southampton

Josh brings Big Bike Revival magic to Monty’s

Josh Allen is a keen cyclist and community worker who has volunteered at Monty’s Community Hub since August 2015.

Monty’s is a community development charity that works to benefit the residents of Montague Avenue estate in the Thornhill ward of Southampton, which lies in the bottom 10% for education and the bottom 20% for all other indices for deprivation in the country.

Major issues, especially for children and young people living locally are obesity and a lack of safe spaces to play and exercise in. It is also difficult to get to the city centre without access to a car, as the roads are busy and there are limited bus services in the area.

Josh wanted to tackle these issues through developing a bicycle repair service that could employ young people locally.

He also wanted to run cycling activities to get young people and their families active and to show people on a low budget how to access the city centre by bicycle – hopefully so they can find it easier to get to work or college.

I hope this club continues to improve life outcomes for young people in the area and would love to do the Big Bike Revival again next year.

Josh Allen, cyclist and community worker

When Monty’s was contacted by the local cycling development officer Ruth Magennis in 2016 about running summer events as part of Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival, Josh saw an opportunity to develop some of these ideas.

He was able to purchase tools and equipment to run bike repair sessions and bike activities during the Big Bike Revival, which really improved the quality of bicycles in the area as some of them were not safe to ride.

Volunteers ran both the repair sessions and the bike activities, which included bike obstacle courses, ‘Ditch the Stabilisers’ sessions, and ‘Bling Your Bike’ themed arts and crafts.

To get the local kids excited and inspire them to cycle more, Josh also used the grant to pay for BMX-themed sessions. Local bike shop RideRide provided BMX-specific repair and maintenance advice sessions.

He also booked professional BMX flatland pro Matti Hemmings to provide a stunt show and teach the kids simple tricks, showing them that with practice they could get into BMX'ing as a sport. By the end of the session, the youngsters were confidently riding around standing up on their saddles!

The success of Big Bike Revival at Monty’s has shown there is a local appetite for more cycling provision. Josh says that parents came to him asking whether more sessions will be happening, and some children have started riding for the first time, to the delight of their parents – who are now considering taking them to school on their bikes.

One of the boys is really enjoying working with bicycles. He has learning difficulties and struggles with social interaction, so this group gives him an opportunity to make contact with other people.

Josh Allen, cyclist and community worker

Due to this interest, Monty’s continued working with Cycling UK, setting up a Community Cycle Club programme after the Big Bike Revival came to an end. The group, which is supported/promoted by My Journey, is thriving.

Josh said: “Big Bike Revival has enabled us to engage a range of age groups in our local area. It gave us the funding to buy tools and equipment, which was invaluable as we could start providing bike repair activities as a Community Cycle Club.

“We started to teach young people in our area how to repair bikes, and three months after the end of the Big Bike Revival we have a core group of four or five young people coming in every week.

“One of the boys, Stevie*, is really enjoying working with bicycles. He has learning difficulties and struggles with social interaction, so this group gives him an opportunity to make contact with other people. His head teacher spoke to me the other day – she’s really pleased that he is engaged in an activity outside school and it seems to be helping him while in school," Josh said.

“Another boy, Joe*, was able to get his knackered old bike that no bike shop would have touched back on the road. He now uses the bike to cycle to school.

“We have also been able to divert bicycles from landfill and sell on some to help fund our club. Several bicycles were donated, which the boys were able to refurbish and then sell on for a low price to local residents.

“I hope this club continues to improve life outcomes for young people in the area and I would love to do the Big Bike Revival again next year.”

*Names have been changed.

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