Kymberly Martin
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Northcott inclusive learning cycling pilot set to expand

An innovative learning program that encourages adults with disability to take up cycling activities has been so successful it will be expanded in early 2021.

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Disability services provider, Northcott introduced Wheels4Life in Tamworth, NSW in October that gave people with disability the opportunity to learn and apply their cycling skills and experience to travel safely on local cycle ways and roads.

The program also includes indoor and outdoor activities using exercise bikes, single and tandem bikes and adult trikes.  The intention is to assist those who want to use cycling for travel, transport and fun when accessing their community.

Wheels4Life, funded by the NSW Government through its Transport for NSW TARP Grant Scheme Project, was piloted by customers participating in Northcott’s Everyday Life Skills service.

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According to New England area manager, Jackie Phillpott the program embraced Northcott’s ‘let’s see what you can do’ learning culture by encouraging participants to explore cycling at their own pace in a supported and fun environment.

“Our participants have a broad range of abilities and levels of confidence when it comes to riding a bike. Many participants have never ridden a bike, while for some their past cycling experience resulted in an accident and significant loss of confidence. This means all aspects of the ‘hear-see-do’ training style we’ve chosen to use have needed to be personalised with staff support,” she said.

 One of the participants in his early 30s, has thrived in Wheels4Life. Since the start of the program, Ben has gone from riding a stand-still exercise bike, to using pedestal tandem and solo bikes indoors. He recently progressed to cycling both tandem and solo bikes outdoors.

“I haven’t ridden for 20 years after falling from my bike” he said.  “I’ve got my confidence back and I really enjoy having fun with all the bikes and trikes and my friends.”

The 9-week pilot program, which runs twice a week, concludes before Christmas and has between 12 and 20 customers participating in each session. Participants have completed cycling drills and safety talks, with some people progressing from cycling on pedestal bikes indoors to cycling on tandem and single bikes around Tamworth.

For participants who cannot cycle, the program also offers bike carts ensuring people with all abilities can participate. Participants in wheelchairs have also been taking part, completing the cycling drills.

Northcott hopes to continue running the program in Tamworth in early 2021, while also expanding to other regional areas, such as Ballina.