Introducing Saga, one of our friendly community cycle taxi pilots
Bikeworks cycle-taxi is a free service that has launched in London offering rides to isolated and mobility-restricted residents. It’s a proving an increasingly popular service which helps get residents out and about in their local communities.
Here are a few pictures of Saga with the brilliant Brian in Exmouth Market, whom she often refers to as The Calligrapher. He’s 90, and still rides a bike himself, but with less confidence than when he was younger.
Thursdays have become their adventure days, a chance for Brian to get out and about.
They’ve cycled to:
- Whitechapel gallery
- William Morris gallery
- All Ability Cycle club at the velopark
- Islington, Clerkenwell, Liverpool Street, Hackney
Saga joined us in October 2022, let’s get to know her:
Which area of London to you cover?
I’m based in Victoria Park, so most of my journeys take place in and around Hackney and Tower Hamlets.
What prompted you to take up a pilot role?
With two small kids in nursery and school I needed to find a job that worked with family life in a way that much of my pre-kids work wouldn’t. I love cycling, and I’m passionate about sustainable travel, air quality, and being active as a way to improve mental health. So being a Cycle Taxi Pilot is a match made in heaven!
My Mother had 5 artificial joints fitted in 2018-2020 as the result of arthritis and she actually used the cycle taxi a few times during Bikeworks pilot scheme. So when the Cycle Taxi programme officially launched and I saw the pilot roles being advertised, I thought that’s for me – I want to help give other people who are isolated, elderly or have mobility issues the opportunity to get out and feel energised by doing some new, physical activity.
The natural elements, wind in your hair, sunshine in your eyes and the rich sensory experience of the natural and built environment along the way is a wonderful perk of the job.
Is it physically demanding?
I don’t find cycling the cycle taxi particularly arduous. I’ve always cycled and walked to get around. I have spent the last 7 years doing it with a kid on my bike, so whilst I don’t often get to do fast, long distance rides – I have a fairly good level of fitness for someone of 45, who has never been to the gym!
Best thing about being a cycle taxi pilot?
I have loved every day.
I admire the passengers because they are game to try something new, and I think that’s brilliant! Being able to facilitate and support people as they have an adventure – whether that be a 5 minute whizz home from the Food Bank, an hour cycling around the park in fresh air or a 3 hour round-trip adventure to places remembered but not seen for a long time…. it’s all great fun.
I enjoy watching people transform, smiles that get wider, cheeks that get pinker, conversation that gets more animated. I’ve been described by one passenger as the “bringer of adventure” and I’m totally chuffed by that. I enjoy seeing people in the street – drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists- catching sight of the cycle taxi, and much to my surprise most people give us a wave, ask about it, or want a lift. I love showing people another way for us to get about in the city. I mean… if Brian and I can cycle somewhere, maybe they could too?
Any amusing stories whilst out and about?
The Calligrapher (90 year old Brian) and I had cycled most of the way home in light rain, and he’d asked me to show him a particular bus stop, for a trip to the cinema he had planned, and I had asked him if he still wanted to look at that or go straight home given the rain, and The Calligrapher said “well we can’t get much wetter, so yes, let’s see the bus stop”. Well, of course the rain started really lashing it down shortly after, but we were stuck on the road in a bit of traffic, when a car honked at us, rolled their window down, and offered me a hat! I can’t imagine there are many drivers who’d offer to help a regular cyclist like that!
What advice would you give to those tentative about booking a cycle taxi?
Whether you’re like Brian who has cycled his whole life, or Bilkis and many of the others who I take home from the Food Bank who have never been on a cycle – your pilot is there to support and facilitate your journey.
We want to make it as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. You can be confident that your pilot will safely get you to your destination. We’ve all been trained to operate the ride-side-by-side taxi, and do plenty of practice. We will make sure the seat is adjusted to be comfortable for you, and explain how the pedals and gears work. It is all pretty simple.
Whilst we will encourage you to pedal, and your efforts do help propel the bike, we don’t need you to pedal, we’ll never get stuck, you won’t have to pedal more than you are able.
What do you do when you’re not on the cycle taxi?
As well as being a parent to two bike mad little kids, I am also the creative producer for the signs and decor at a festival that happens each summer.
Blog written in February 2023
You can learn more about the cycle taxi here.
If you’re interested in becoming a Cycle Taxi Pilot, learn more about the job role available here.