Making cycling a family affair

David Hilliard talks to Luke Balnave about his plan to open a family bike club in Enfield

Luke Balnave's children Caolainn and Molly outside the Enfield Chase Station unit he hopes will become home to The Family Bike Club
Luke Balnave’s children Caolainn and Molly outside the Enfield Chase Station unit he hopes will become home to The Family Bike Club

Local resident Luke Balnave struck a chord with the local cycling community when he recently shared his ambition of having a “family bike library” here in Enfield.

Luke has since set up The Family Bike Club as a community interest company, with the aim of supplying bikes and accessories to facilitate families to make more local journeys together. The crowdfunding appeal that launched the project was a big success, raising over £10,000, with generous contributions from the local public, Aviva Community Trust, plus two grant funds.

“I’ve always been a keen cyclist,” explains Luke, “but it was when I introduced my kids to cycling that I really experienced new levels of satisfaction and enjoyment.”

Using a bike for short journeys was always important for Luke, who has a strong personal interest in environmental issues. “When my kids were young the bike was the go-to option for us for local journeys,” he said. “I’d bring them everywhere by bike. Initially it was using a child seat on my bike and later we started using a trailer. As they grew they progressed to balance bikes and then to pedalling independently.”

Besides the importance to Luke of choosing sustainable transport options, there was a social aspect to cycling for the children that they did not experience when making the same journey by car.

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“I loved watching the general engagement with their environment and with passers-by as we cycled along. Inevitably we’d stop for the odd chat along the way, making each journey unique – and uniquely enjoyable.

“I’m really keen that other families are given the opportunity to experience the same joy for ordinary journeys. In current times particularly, the cost of acquiring each item for the different stages of a child’s growth, not to mention family cargo options, can be prohibitive for many families even if the desire exists to make these choices. We intend, via affordable hire, to positively offer a bridge to overcome this barrier.”

The Family Bike Club’s plan is to go further than just offering equipment. Luke wants to create a community hub, one where local residents can visit to get cycle training; join group led rides; find the most friendly local routes; and feel part of a community.

He says: “Starting cycling with children locally can sometimes feel a bit daunting and we want to provide all the support possible to reduce any initial anxiety.”

The club also aims to offer tandem and piloted cycles that can accommodate those who struggle with ordinary cycling, or just prefer the option of a more sociable form. They will also offer cargo bike and trailer options. The project could even empower local residents by providing them with the ability to track, via an app, their own carbon savings with every journey made locally.

With a proposed base at Enfield Chase Station, Luke is currently putting together a collection of bikes, trailers, tag-alongs and accessories for the bike club’s launch. Watch this space!

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