It’s Christmas Eve 2020 and it’s our last day before we all have a break (except the bikeshare team, some of whom are keep a watchful eye even over the festive season). It feels like a good time to reflect on the year that has been, the people we’ve lost and to acknowledge and thank some people, quite a lot of people really.
We’ve certainly had a time of it, but then so has everyone!
I’d like to start by mentioning two huge personalities that are no longer with us.
Grace Davidson, who passed away on 31st January and Tommy Brookes, who also sadly died on 20th August.
Grace served on our board for several years and only retired in order to care for her brother, and when he died Grace was the last remaining member of her family. We have the fondest memories of Grace who always offered practical help at open days and never failed to delight us with her gifts of home baking, particularly her famous shortbread. Tommy retired from Recyke-a-bike four years ago, he worked as our van driver collecting bicycles from recycling centres and households, assisted by a revolving array of young trainees and volunteers. Although he was in and out most of the time, Tommy was no less a part of the team and was always very active within the organisation. He was always good for a blether; if anything shone above all else during those ‘put the world to rights’ chats it was the love and pride Tommy had for his beloved family and we know he will be truly missed by his loved ones.
It is hard to summarise the year quickly, but I’m sure you also don’t want an entire book, so I’ll try. By February/March outreach bookings were (understandably) being cancelled at a terrifying rate. In March ‘lockdown’ loomed and like many employers, whether third sector or commercial, we wondered if the organisation could survive. Recycling centres closed but our shop could stay open. We furloughed some staff and asked others to step into different roles from their usual. We sought funding to help stabilise the organisation, and all the time we felt frustrated that we weren’t yet playing an active part in the community response to the Covid-19 crisis.
By the time we had achieved some stability, some wonderful things had already happened. Individuals who had to put their own jobs, businesses and lives on hold had sprung into action, formed new community groups and were responding to the local need. We reached out to local partners and offered our help. We managed to secure funding and crowdfunded some extra. This allowed us to:
· help Ladies of the Rock, we cooked and delivered hot soup lunches and sweet treats to people who were shielding.
· assist Stirling Council with shopping and prescription deliveries to people shielding or isolating – very often we did these deliveries by cargo bike
· once shielding stopped, we began working with Ladies of the Rock, Polmaise Community Council, Heart of Braehead and Stirling Champs to supply re-heatable meals via their community larders and delivery services. As time went on, more people have been finding themselves in financial difficulty and the need for these services has only increased. Even just since September, we have totalled 3,862 meals!
· We were able to maintain our March through October Dr Bike service at NHS Forth Valley Royal Hospital and thanks to extra funding, we were able to make this a weekly rather than fortnightly service. This was really helpful, as many essential workers took to their bicycles to avoid public transport and car sharing – cycling is one of the safest ways to travel in a pandemic!
· Our team has continued to maintain the nextbike and Forthbike schemes, and funding allowed nextbike to become free for all Stirling residents!
· Demand for bikes far outstripped what we could actually build and sell; remember the recycling sites one of our main sources had closed. We didn’t increase our prices though, because access to affordable bikes is one of our main objectives and more vital than ever.
· We joined the Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme and, thanks to this funding, have been able to get people’s bikes back to roadworthy, more often than not, for free within the £50 ‘voucher’. This scheme is still available…
· We did cycling activities at summer clubs for essential workers’ children, and we have been able to support Clackmannanshire with a massive Bikeability catch-up programme all the way into December.
· Lots of other stuff, that I no doubt am forgetting to mention… apologies for anything I’ve missed!
It is safe to say 2020 has been both incredibly tough but also in many ways kind of amazing and hugely rewarding. I want to offer some heartfelt thanks, because none of this happens in isolation (despite isolation being quite a theme of 2020).
Here goes! Thank you to:
· Our fantastic staff and volunteer team. You’ve been truly extraordinary, you’ve worked so hard, taken on so much, and always with good cheer and generosity of spirit. You’ve changed how we do things to make it safer for everyone, you’ve stepped into different roles and you’ve made a difference to people’s lives. Some of you were asked to furlough, or to stop volunteering for a while and everyone has done so with good grace but also been eager to return to lend a hand.
· Our board of volunteer trustees, who’ve been unstinting in their support and stood, metaphorically, shoulder to shoulder with us as we faced challenge after challenge.
· Our funders (hope I remember everyone as they are many!): Cycling Scotland, Scottish Government via Firstport (Third Sector Resilience Fund), Corra Foundation (Wellbeing) and SVE (Communities), HMRC’s Job Retention Fund, We are Cycling UK, the Charities Aid Foundation, Stirling Council (Food Fund AND SCSP), CTSI, Zero Waste Scotland, and not forgetting numerous generous individual donors. The supermarkets, hotels and individuals who donated ingredients too!
· Our customers – everyone who has bought a bike, used our repairs service; and our commercial customers doing their best in trying times to keep paying our invoices.
· Our partners, who’ve advised, supported and lobbied for support: SVE, CTSI, FEL, CRNS and many more.
· Our community partners who’ve concentrated on getting support to the people who needed it the most and who’ve allowed us to be part of that: Ladies of the Rock, Heart of Braehead, Polmaise Community Council, Stirling Champs
· And everyone in our communities that has played their part, made changes and sacrifices, followed restrictions and really thought about how they can behave to try and keep everyone that much safer.
I will absolutely brazenly sign off this 2020 catch up with a link for donations, to help keep our community meals going: