Falkirk hub’s free advice helps people leave the car at home

Falkirk Active Travel Hub is in the town's high street.
Falkirk Active Travel Hub is in the town's high street.

If you’ve been thinking it’s time to get back in the saddle, you might be interested in a special birthday party that’s happening on Friday.

Falkirk’s Active Travel Hub is celebrating a busy first year in its High Street premises, so locals are invited to come along between noon and 2pm when the Hub’s Dr Bike will be on hand to give your bike a free health check.

Ray Burr, coordinator of Falkirk Active Travel Hub.

Ray Burr, coordinator of Falkirk Active Travel Hub.

There’ll also be the chance to hop on to the saddle of an e-bike and say ‘bye bye’ to struggling up energy-sapping hills.

From advising people on safe routes to get around the district to organising led bike rides, hosting maintenance workshops and organising electric bike demos, so far this year Falkirk Active Travel Hub will have encouraged nearly 4000 people to make healthier, greener travel choices.

Hub coordinator Ray Burr said: “Our goal has been to get the local community making more of their everyday journeys by walking, cycling or using sustainable modes of transport such as electric bikes or electric cars.

“For example, we’ve teamed up with Falkirk Football Club to run regular walks from the town centre to the stadium on match days to encourage fans to leave the car at home.”

One of the Hub’s big pushes is to encourage people to try an electric bike for free and they’ve had great feedback from people such as Falkirk Council employee, Fraser, who is recovering from a heart attack.

He said: “After having a heart attack in March 2018, I knew I had to make some pretty big life changes to get back to full health.”

Fraser knew he needed to improve his cardiovascular fitness, but as he hadn’t been on a bike for years he was more than a bit nervous when the team at the Hub offered him an e-bike trial.

“One ride on the bike and I was hooked!” he said. “It helps me exercise for an extended period, places just the right strain on my cardiac system and keeps my heart working exactly within the ratios given to me by the cardiac rehab team.”

And it’s not just helped with his rehabilition, getting him fit enough to return to work much quicker than anticipated.

Being on the bike also got Fraser out into the fresh air during his recovery and helped him make new friends.

“It also gave my family some peace and quiet while I’m out of their hair for a while!” he said.

Fraser has now used the Cycleplus, cycle to work scheme, to get a new e-bike and is using it every day.

“I have gone from a being a couch potato to cycling over 100 miles every week. Trust me, nobody is more surprised about that than I am!” said Fraser.

Artist Karen Van De Graaf, from Falkirk Grahamston, says the e-bike is perfect for her main role as a homemaker, which includes taking two children to school.

She said: “This bike has changed my life and I really, really want one of my own.

“I’m an active woman in my 40’s, who goes most places by bike or on foot, but I really loved making life easy for myself with the turbo boost button to get up hills.

“It leaves me with enough leg power to get dinner on the table at the end of the day, even when I’ve been out cycling to the Falkirk Wheel and back!”

Another person to benefit is retiree, Frank, from Tamfourhill, who is in his eighties and hadn’t cycled since his teens.

Ray said: “He wanted to get back on a bike to help his health and be more active. So he came along to an essential cycling skills session with us where we spent time working on his balance, setting off and bike control.

“After an hour Frank was confidently cycling again. He ordered a new electric bike the following week and was determined to practice what we covered during the session so he could join his friends cycling along the Forth & Clyde canal.

“We provided Frank with advice on how to maintain his new bike and the tools he’d need to look after it and is now happily doing both.”

And it’s not just e-bikes the Hub has been promoting.

It has been working with Central Scotland Regional Equality Council (CSREC) to tackle transport poverty in Falkirk.

Bikes donated to the Hub are repaired and serviced by the team before been distributed by CSREC to local people in need.

This year they’ll also be working with people in Bainsford, Camelon & Grangemouth to develop active travel plans.

And they look forward to seeing many more visitors from across the district to help them on their – greener, healthier journey.