Stephen Matthews, Founder of Cycle Happy, tells us how he came up with the idea and what the charity hopes to achieve.
I came up with the idea of Cycle Happy during the second lockdown of the Covid 19 pandemic. Cycle Happy is a registered charity offering cycling activities to improve health and wellbeing, forming a small but important part of a person’s wellbeing plan by offering the support for people to enter the outdoors in a structured and safe way.
Cycling for me was an activity that was linked to my childhood, but I re-found my love for cycling aged 35 when I organised a sponsored cycle ride for cancer research. The 15 people who attended the 140-mile challenge cycle from the west cost to the east coast of the UK were varied in age and abilities. Apart from being work colleagues, I did not know much about the person that sat behind the job. 3 days later after sweat, laughs and tears, good times and bad, rain and sunshine, flat roads and hills, a bond was formed with all the people who started and finished.
The next 23 years brought a number of other challenges. Cycle Happy is not about the extreme challenge, it is about capturing the feeling that was evident when strangers got back on the bicycle after so many years and that experience continued for years to come by a long-term relationship with the bicycle. The bicycle gives a reason to go outside, leave technology alone for a while, live in the moment and it just makes you feel a bit better. Capturing this with Cycle Happy is a simple task for me as a seasoned cyclist which I wanted to share.
During the pandemic I undertook a pilot scheme with friends to test the idea as well as speaking with doctors’ surgeries to see if this was something that they may refer to and on all counts the feedback was positive. The setting up of a charity has been a long and complicated process but coming out of that process we now have a proposed launch date in August 2021 and have started applying for grants to allow the service to be at no cost to the end user.
The charity status has opened so many doors to professional organisations providing assistance for free and I personally have increased confidence in people. It is so nice to do something for people that they appreciate and will start to make a real difference to their lives coming out of the global pandemic, which has seen many of us sitting in the house, alone and staring at computer screens.
The development of a charitable organisation at any time is a difficult task, but trying to follow this process during a worldwide pandemic has had its challenges. I have had the support of so many good organisations, and individuals within those organisations, such as the Business and Innovation Centre in Sunderland, who have painstakingly taught me and guided me through the whole process. I feel I have done so much, but actually still need to run my first real session. This extension to my original planned timings has to be viewed positively as the longer time I have the more prepared the organisation will be. A great thank you to all of the individuals involved.
Now is the time to live in the moment and make a difference to our health and wellbeing.
Please pass on our details to your local GP Practice and join the Cycle Happy revolution.
Steve will be updating us with Cycle Happy’s progress in the autumn.