A throw-away comment at a job club has led to a thriving group reinvigorating a disadvantaged community.
A young unemployed man said at the local job club he wanted to “do something with bikes” to help get him off the dole – little did he know his remark would inspire the birth of the Dawson Bike Club in Langlees.
A meeting between the chairman of Dawson Centre Management Committee, Billy Morrison (61) and colleague Tracy Hendry (35) on the strength of the comment followed and the pair soon had the wheels in motion for ideas on how such a club could help motivate local residents.
Their suggestions of a bike club that teaches youngsters how to look after their bikes, train unemployed people in bike maintenance for employability skills, empower its older population and bring families together on regular bike rides were soon added to by a community eager to embrace the ideals.
Other aims include recycling bikes for re-use or for scrap, organising group bike rides as a healthy and social activity and bringing back a sense of achievement to individuals and the community as a whole.
Billy said: “We wanted to offer people something different that would benefit the whole community, young and old. This is a disadvantaged area and it’s up to us to provide something.
“Douglas Adamson suggested it at the job club in the centre and Tracy and I took it from there. Within one meeting we had a great blueprint and opened it up to the community.”
Tracy added: “We put the ideas up on the noticeboard and all of a sudden people were sticking post-it notes on it with their ideas and it just grew from there.
“One of the great things about the club is that has inspired many people, not just from this area, to come along and get back on their bikes again.
“A woman from Westquarter, who is 82, hadn’t been on her bike for 20 years. After hearing about us, she brought her bike down to get it looked at and now uses it quite regularly. She says it’s changed her life.”
Progression of the project has been quick and resounding after starting with just one bike in February this year. It now has 112 new and second hand bikes available for anyone to buy cheaply or hire for the day at a cost of just £1. It’s even got a tandem.
Seven volunteers are now involved with the club’s day-to-day running with three bike mechanics, Mark Cameron, Ecky Muirhead (50) and John Black (27) who fix bikes that have been donated or repair ones from customers for a small fee.
Anyone who wants to learn about bike maintenance can simply go along and be taught by the mechanics, like retired offshore production worker Ian MacKay from the Braes area.
The 70-year-old said: “I’m doing some training just now because I wanted to learn how to take care of my bike as I started cycling again.
“I’ve only been here a couple of days, but it’s been great. You learn everything on the job and the guys really know what they’re doing. They have to to teach me.”
Student Jamie Reid (18), from Langlees, juggles his college timetable to attend the club, situated in a large blue refurbished dressing room unit at the end of the Dawson Centre, for bike mechanic training.
He said: “It’s a great place to learn. People of all ages come down and it gives the area a place for people to learn and have somewhere to go and meet up.”
Colleague Mark Cameron, Tracy’s partner, said he was overwhelmed by the success of the group so far saying: “The club has done brilliantly up to now, but there’s so much more potential and we’re developing new ideas all the time.
“One of the things that was important to me was teaching children about all the aspects of bikes and we’ll be doing that next week in Bantaskine Primary through the ‘bikeability’ programme.”
Falkirk Council’s cycling officer George Callaghan said: “The Dawson Bike Club is a godsend for us to help deliver our bike strategies in schools and communities throughout Falkirk, making children better road users in the long term.”