Cycling Friendly guest blog: Cyrenians

16 November 2020    

Guest blog from Kathy Hoyle (Social Bite Village Manager)

Cyrenians, runs the Social Bite village: a community living model that responds directly to homelessness in Scotland. Made up of 10 houses, each shared by two community members, it provides supported temporary accommodation where residents can stay until they access permanent housing.

Since the Cyrenians’ Social Bite Village opened in July 2018, we have been keen to incorporate cycling into the fabric of the community. Both staff and community members have been involved at looking at ways we can use bikes to benefit  physical and mental health and as a cheap way to get from A to B.

Working towards becoming Cycling Friendly

Before becoming involved in Cycling Friendly, Cyrenians set up a Sustainability Group to help promote more environmentally friendly choices in the organisation and cycling is part of this group’s remit. Cycling is a big part of helping our staff to find alternatives to driving and most recently we’ve sought funding from Cycling Scotland to help make it easier; through things like installing bike parking at our sites, providing bikes and equipment to staff and volunteers at our Gardens and some of our other communities. We also have a Bike to Work scheme and now staff can claim for bike mileage at work. In the past we’ve had Cycling Awareness days and bike maintenance workshops. 

The role of bikes

At the Village, we have been lucky enough to have bikes available for use at the since the beginning of the project. Social Bite purchased eight hybrid/mountain bikes shortly after the Village opened and we have been able to lend these out to our residents. We also linked in with SEStrans GO Ebike project and secured an additional eight e-bikes which have proven to be a great way for residents to get around Edinburgh.

People who previously may never have used a bike for transportation have learned routes through the city and have been able to use the bikes for leisure, meeting up with family and friends and to get to employment, college and volunteering opportunities. We also accessed regular riding sessions through Cycling UK for residents to build up their confidence on the roads. During this time one of our community members who had never cycled before, learned to ride a bike and following the course, regularly rode his bike to work.

The award process

Cycling Scotland brought the Cycling Friendly Award to our attention.  We decided to apply for all our sites with the Village being the first to go through the whole process and achieving the award in October 2020.  Across the wider organisation, we are applying for awards at our sites and there has been a greater focus and energy on cycling. 

Before we started working with Cycling Scotland we did a survey with staff and found that many wanted to cycle to work but didn’t feel confident or felt that we didn’t have the right facilities. We feel much progress has been made and we’ll review this again once our projects complete but anecdotally are seeing a difference already. 

The freedom of being on a bike

At the Social Bite Village, one of the main benefits of cycling has been the freedom that it gives to our staff and community members. There can be few better feelings than whizzing along the promenade at Silverknowes on a bike with the sea air at your back!