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‘It makes them feel part of the world again’: Inverness charity gets vulnerable people out and about on bikes

Spokes For Folks at Cameron House, L to R: Resident Gina Spark, pilot Scott Armstrong, residents Patsy Clark and Sam Thomspon, pilot Mairi Mackay, resident Cathie Mackay, pilot Ted Mouse, pilot Vonnie Stevenson, resident John Herbison and carer Gemma MacDonald.

For those living in care homes or assisted housing, getting out and about isn’t always something that can be easily done.

But Inverness charity Spokes For Folks aims to change that by offering social bike rides to anyone in the area who might benefit from them.

Multiple times each week, volunteers- known as pilots – bring the group’s trikes to local care homes and schools to take people out for some fresh air and a jaunt through the city.

Now the charity, which is run entirely by volunteers, wants to get the word out to help brighten up the day of even more Invernessians, including young people with disabilities.

Favourite destinations for the rides include going along the River Ness and the canal – with a stop factored in for feeding the ducks.

People form Cameron House out enjoying a bike ride. Picture by Jason Hedges.

‘There was one lady who hadn’t been out in two years’

The group has multiple trikes which take two passengers and another pair specifically designed to have wheelchairs fitted into, meaning everyone can get involved. The specialist bikes range from £8,500-£10,000 each, and passengers are protected by an outdoor waterproof blanket.

Moira Finlayson, who is a GP in her day job, coordinates volunteers and rides for Spokes For Folks.

She said: “It really lifts their spirits, if you’re in a care home particularly you’re sitting between four walls, no matter how nice people are you don’t often get out very often.

“If someone doesn’t have a family locally that can take them out then they’re really just indoors most of the time. There was one lady who hadn’t been out in two years.”

Two of the trikes are specially designed for wheelchairs. Picture by Jason Hedges.

Since the group started in 2017 it has grown rapidly. Originally part of local initiative, it split off to become its own registered charity in June 2020.

Not only does the group enable people to get fresh air and see the sights of the city, it offers people who may usually live a more isolated life a chance to socialise.

“It makes them feel part of the world again,” said Mrs Finlayson.

“We find that we go out with the trikes then we meet someone who knows one of the passengers or who hasn’t seen them in a while since they went into a home, so it reconnects them with the community.”

Post pandemic

Spokes For Folks takes out groups from various locations across Inverness, including those spending prolonged time in Raigmore Hospital to youngsters at Drummond School.

However, as with many groups and organisations, Spokes For Folks was hit hard by the pandemic.

In their busiest week, the group had around 100 volunteers and were taking the same number of people out on the trikes.

Now, they have around 30 volunteers and are still restricted with how many groups they can visit.

We were super excited to receive more waterproof fleecy blankets for the trikes this week. This will make scheduling…

Posted by Spokes For Folks on Saturday, 27 November 2021


‘She noticed quite an amazing change in him just from being out’

But the team are determined to do what they can to help, and will be out in the winter if weather allows as they know just how much it can brighten up someone’s day.

Mrs Finlayson said: “The care home coordinators say that they chat about it afterwards, they tell their relatives, they seem more relaxed.

“Margaret from Cameron House said she took out a gentleman who had global aphasia, he hardly communicated at all, and she couldn’t believe how animated he was after the trike ride, how much more he responded to her.”

A group enjoying a bike ride from Cameron House. Picture by Jason Hedges.

The group is keen to emphasise the fact that the group is free and open to anyone who might benefit from it, not only elderly people.

Mrs Finlayson added: “I suppose the groups we haven’t reached as much are young people with disabilities because some of them don’t know about us. We have got some regular rides for young people who are in supported housing.

“It’s suitable for any age. It’s for people who wouldn’t normally get out and about, to get them out.”

Spokes For Folks is also always looking for volunteers to lead the trike rides, and will provide all the training required. Pilots just need to be chatty and a competent cyclist.

To donate towards their work, visit GoFundMe page.