Here’s how a cycling initiative in Sunderland is helping people to get on their bikes

The success of a scheme to promote cycling in Sunderland has received national recognition and a major new partner.

The St Peter’s Cycle and Sports Hub, which is located near the National Glass Centre, launched in November last year and has received an overwhelming response.

St Peter's Cycle and Sports Hub receives national recognition. From left, University of Sunderland's Kevin Ludlow, Cycle UK's Andrew Thorp, Coun Amy Wilson, Student Union's Rebecca Little, Go Smarter's Diane Hilder, Student Union's Bryan Pepple, Hub manager Richy Duggan and Coun Barry Curran.

St Peter's Cycle and Sports Hub receives national recognition. From left, University of Sunderland's Kevin Ludlow, Cycle UK's Andrew Thorp, Coun Amy Wilson, Student Union's Rebecca Little, Go Smarter's Diane Hilder, Student Union's Bryan Pepple, Hub manager Richy Duggan and Coun Barry Curran.

The hub is funded by Sunderland City Council’s ‘Go Smarter’ scheme in partnership with the authority’s public health department, and run by staff and volunteers from Sunderland Community Action Group.

Project manager, Richy Duggan said: “It’s been busy ever since we launched it with 30 to 40 people regular visitors every week.

“People come in either to hire a bike and get some help and advice on maintenance and cycle routes, or get involved in some of the regular sporting and leisure activities we have organised.

“There is literally something for everybody attracting all ages and abilities. From children coming along with their families to take part in one of the escorted group cycle rides, to walking clubs for ‘Mums, Prams and Grans’ and our fishing and dog walkers groups.”

The location, facilities and community involvement has attracted the attention of the country’s oldest cycling charity Cycling UK, which has named St Peter’s as one of the best facilities in the region.

Andrew Thorp, Cycling UK development officer, said; “What is going on at the St Peter’s Hub is fantastic, giving people the opportunity to get into and enjoy cycling.

“I’m working with SCAG by training up their staff and volunteers to get even more supported led rides running. Enabling them to get even more people from Sunderland pedalling!

“Cycling UK works across the North East in setting up Community Cycle Clubs to foster more grassroots pedalling groups, sharing the enjoyment of cycling in our region!”

A regular visitor to the St Peter’s community project is visually impaired pensioner Dorothy Darke, from Southwick.

Now volunteers at SCAG regularly take Dorothy out on tandem to enjoy the fresh air and company of the other regular visitors to the St Peter’s Cycle and Sports Hub.

The hub provides a focal point for leisure, recreational and social activities for all ages and abilities including access to affordable hire of a range of bikes and advice on cycle routes and maintenance.

Councillor Amy Wilson, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “We are delighted at the success of this project, which is helping to achieve the aims of the Go Smarter project which is to encourage more people to consider more environmentally ways of travelling and then providing the opportunity and facilities to do so.

“Our city has many cycle routes and the St Peters Cycle and Sports Hub provides a range of bikes and guidance to help people from across the community to begin to use and enjoy them.”

Near neighbours the University of Sunderland who already share their Multi-Use Sports Area with the community hub, plan to increase their support and involvement with the donation of ten re-conditioned cycles for loan and public hire.

Rebecca Little, student union activities and opportunities officer said: “Encouraging more students onto bikes will help increase their connection to the city, contribute to positive health and well-being, and even more provide new opportunities for social activities within the community. The benefits are endless.”