A free roadside bike repair service for NHS Forth Valley staff has been extended to cover all local key workers following a successful six-week pilot.

Charity Forth Environment Link launched The Bike Medic initiative at the end of September to support and encourage key workers to keep on cycling to work during the coronavirus pandemic; especially during the cold and wet winter months.

Bike Medic Ray Burr with NHS nurse Varrie-Jane FranceThe service was initially open to NHS staff, but is now available to all key workers across Forth Valley.

The free call-out service covers the whole of the Forth Valley Health Board region and operates in a similar way to car breakdown recovery, with bikes being repaired at the roadside for free or taken away for repair.

Onward travel is also covered, so if a bike can’t be easily fixed key workers will be offered a courtesy bike to allow them to finish their journey or will be given a lift to work or home.

KEEPING KEY WORKERS IN THE SADDLE

 The scheme has been warmly received by NHS Forth Valley staff:

  • Dr Raj Burgul, a Consultant Radiologist at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, was one of the scheme’s first call-outs. He said: “I was cycling down a quiet country lane in the pitch dark when I got a double puncture! I didn’t have a back-up plan… until I remembered about The Bike Medic. I’m so thankful for this prompt rescue service. I was safely taken home in the comfort of their electric van. In these stressful times this scheme gives us hospital staff confidence and security to keep on cycling, especially through the dark winter months.”
  • NHS Forth Valley Clinical Coder Tracey-Anne Wilson has also benefitted from the free service. She said: “I got a puncture on my way home from work, so I phoned The Bike Medic. Ryan arrived within 15 minutes. As it was getting dark by this time, he put my bike in the van, gave me a lift home and fixed my bike outside my house.  It’s a brilliant service which gives me peace of mind while commuting to work. It would have been a long walk home for me without this service.  Keep up the good work!”

Over 60 health professionals are currently borrowing electric bikes and bikes from Forth Environment Link’s Active Travel Hubs in Stirling and Falkirk; with a further 300 cycles available to all key workers for free through the charity’s public bike share schemes, nextbike Stirling and Forth Bike.

NHS Forth Valley Occupational Therapist Karren Morrison said: “Having never been much of a cyclist before, I was lucky enough to be loaned an e-bike via the key worker scheme from Forth Environment Link’s Active Travel Hub back in April.  Since that time, I have commuted daily from Brightons to Forth Valley Royal Hospital and have become a dedicated and enthusiastic convert. I can honestly say it has changed my life and I am committed to continuing.

“My only concern over this time has been the nagging worry of what would happen if I got a puncture or mechanical failure during the commute, as I would have no clue what to do. About 3 months ago I did in fact get a puncture on my way home from work. Luckily, it was a nice day and I managed to walk the last couple of miles home.

“I did wonder however what I would do if for example it had been a cold, wet, dark evening or I had been much further from home. So, I was absolutely delighted with the announcement of the support I would be linked with from the service of The Bike Medic. Sure enough a few weeks later the brakes were not working on my bike as I cycled home one night. I managed to limp home and phoned the Bike Medic who immediately arranged to take the bike away for repair.

“The introduction of this fantastic service, I believe, has given me the reassurance and confidence I need to continue to commute over the coming winter. I hope I don’t need to use it but just knowing it is there has made such a difference to me. It has been a difficult time for the NHS and going into winter will present us all with significant challenges. For me cycling has become an important part of maintaining my health and well-being throughout the last 8 months and am sure that will continue.”

Forth Environment Link was initially inspired to provide cycling support to the NHS Forth Valley staff by a local nurse who approached one of the charity’s active travel hubs at the beginning of lockdown for help fixing her bike.

Bike MedicThe charity’s Active Travel Co-ordinator, Ray Burr, said: “We offered the nurse an e-bike from our free lending library while her bike was in for repair and that snowballed into us providing 75 electric bikes for key workers at the height of lockdown, as well as wrap around cycling advice and support. Since then, we’ve been inundated with enquiries from key workers wanting to ditch the car and we’ve been only too happy to help by sourcing as many bikes as we can. We even have a waiting list; such is the demand for cycling!”

All local key workers in Forth Valley can now access The Bike Medic service for free by calling 03333 208635 between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday. General enquiries about the service can also be emailed to bikemedic@forthenvironmentlink.org

The scheme is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and Paths for All’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Open Fund.