Ask British Cycling’s coach Harry Wood what works to encourage at-risk young people to avoid becoming engaged in gang-related activity, serious youth violence or drug crime, and he’ll tell you something you might not have expected – cycling.
Harry’s Beeston Hill project, funded by British Cycling’s Go Ride programme and South Leeds Charity St Lukes Cares has seen great results.
Engaging with a small group of teenage lads, who had all been excluded from mainstream education, Harry saw a massive rise in confidence as well as new skills among those taking part in the project.
Beeston Hill is among the 1% most deprived areas in the country, and the lads who took part face multiple disadvantages, as well as being vulnerable to grooming by criminal gangs.
A focus on cycling gave Harry and Matt, a youth worker with Beeston-based charity St Luke’s Cares, a shared language and interest to engage the teenagers from the start. For six weeks the small group learned aspects of bike maintenance at Slunglow, Holbeck alongside practical sessions at Leeds Urban Bike Park. At the end of the project, having learned how to maintain their bikes, the participants were allowed to take home all their gear for free (including the bike) so they could keep using their new-found skills.
Harry says, “This initial trial of the programme has surpassed our initial expectations. Not only have the young people got fantastic skills on and off the bike, but they have matured, become more employable, more resilient and will make great role models to future intakes of young people into the programme.”