WHEN, aged 30, Greg Kinsman-Chauvet managed to conquer a phobia of cycling and finally learned to ride a bike, he knew right away it would be a life-altering experience.
Greg’s new found love of two-wheel transport ultimately led him to give up his job in business marketing management, move to Glasgow, sell his car, and start a social enterprise to encourage more people to get on their bike.
The self-proclaimed Cycling Enthusiast Officer (CEO) started Glasgow-based charity Bike for Good in July 2010 with a small stall in the Barras Market.
“We started to receive donations, offered tools to fix bikes, and sell bikes too,” says Greg, 42, and originally from the South of France.
“People thought we were nuts at first when we said we wanted to start a social enterprise and sell refurbished, donated bikes, where all the money goes back into the charity.
“We then got funding from the Scottish Government as part of the Climate Challenge Fund, and we really started to try to help stop people relying on their car so much and to start cycling more.
“We moved to the west end where we started to encourage behavioural change, get more people onto bikes and focused on helping people cycle to work or university.”
While the charity has expanded over the last 11 years, launching many community programmes and collaborations with businesses, schools, and other social enterprises, at its heart Bike for Good is environmentally focused.
Figures from its 2019/20 year review show some 1519 bikes were diverted from landfill, saving 224 tonnes of CO2 (the equivalent of taking 37 cars off the road). In the same year the charity helped build and improve confidence by giving 223 people 1:1 cycle training, and 63 people achieved a City & Guilds mechanical qualification.
The Bike for Good Fix Your Own Bike service also proved popular with 385 people utilising the scheme over that year.
And the pandemic only seems to have heightened demand as more Scots took to their bikes.
“The last year has been a great boost,” says Greg. “At the start of the pandemic we were giving away a lot of free bikes as people wanted to avoid public transport.”
A total of 2096 bikes were donated by the public to the charity over the last year (2020/21) and 987 were sold. A total of 2484 people engaged with the charity’s Community Outreach team this year across different projects – 38% of which were new to the group.
Yet despite Bike for Good experiencing positive signs of interest from more people and businesses, Greg believes the UK is still in the early stages in terms of facilitating and encouraging cyclists.
“It’s a chicken and egg situation,” Greg points out, “the government doesn’t want to invest more because there’s not enough cyclists, but only once you invest will you get more cyclists.
“Despite investment being slower than many other European countries such as The Netherlands or Denmark, there is more movement and funding available now because of the desire to increase cycling in Scotland.”
Investing in infrastructure to support active travel and reduce vehicle traffic has been proven to significantly benefit communities and improve the local economy – increasing footfall and reducing air pollution.
While the environmental benefits are unequivocal, the focus for Bike for Good is to understand people’s perceptions of cycling and to help it become more accessible for varying age groups.
Evidence suggests that behaviours associated with cycling play a fundamental role in more people adopting cycling as a lifestyle habit.
“I read a survey recently that asked people in a city in Denmark why they ride a bike, and only a small percentage said because they want to be healthy, or that they want to save money – most people said it was because it was the most fun, fastest and the best way to get around town,” explains Greg.
“Cycling is beautiful, and you get used to it fast. When we get people into cycling, whether through cycle training or we can meet them to cycle to work – once they start, they rarely go back.”
Greg admits Bike for Good is often at capacity as the reputation of the charity grows and behavioural habits change throughout Glasgow.
With premises in both Glasgow’s west end and south side employing around 40 staff aided by 30-40 volunteers, Bike for Good has been able to reach many communities and deliver its range of programmes.
And with the city council currently rolling out the biggest cycling infrastructure project of its kind in the UK at a cost of around £115 million, the charity hopes more will be encouraged to jump on the saddle.
“Twelve years ago, people weren’t talking about these important environmental issues,” says Greg. “When I came to live in Glasgow you wouldn’t see many people out cycling in the street and there was nothing really welcoming cyclists like me.
“Now, growth is there, and our main aims keep us busy – to get more people into bikes, to help other social enterprises to become sustainable and to grow as a business … and ultimately to help the environment.”