A ground-breaking initiative spearheaded by Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Steve Turner is making a major impact on one of Stockton’s most vulnerable communities.
The bike recycling scheme takes stolen and abandoned bicycles, whose owners can’t be found, from Cleveland Police stores.
The project then re-distributes them to members of disadvantaged communities – including refugees and asylum seekers – across the town.
National charity Sustrans, based at the Stockton Walking and Cycling Hub, refurbishes the bikes with help from volunteers. They bring them back into use as a safe and environmentally sustainable form of transport.
Newly-revitalised bikes are then donated to families in need, refugees, asylum seekers and community groups.
Providing the bikes empowers people from some of Stockton’s most vulnerable communities. It gives them access to essential services and improves their mental and physical wellbeing. It also helps to break down the social barriers that hold back progress.
Councillor Norma Stephenson, was instrumental in bringing together the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and Stockton Council. Her involvement led to the council providing storage facilities for the bikes.
The council has also facilitated partnerships between Sustrans and local charity Refugee Futures, as well as a supported housing provider the Mears Group,
Cleveland PCC Steve Turner praised the scheme, as “a resounding success for all parties involved”
He said: “The donation of these bikes not only frees up valuable space for Cleveland Police, but it also affords the bicycles the chance of a second life.
“Equally significant, the refurbishment process offers invaluable opportunities for volunteers to acquire new skills.
“Teaching groups of refugees and asylum seekers how to ride safely not only aids their integration into the local community but also provides them with a cost-effective and convenient means of transport.”
For a 34-year-old asylum seeker from Iran, this project has become a source of solace and respite from her problems.
She said: “It gives me something new to focus on and a release from my problems.” .
Cllr Norma Stephenson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this wonderful scheme. It will make a big difference to those in our community who could really benefit in so many ways from the use of a bicycle.
“Cycling is a cheaper, healthier way to get around and access essential local services, and it’s better for the environment – so everyone wins.”
For Stockton-based charity Refugee Futures, the initiative helps to foster integration.
By creating a welcoming environment for refugees and asylum seekers in Teesside, they are more likely to remain here. They can then contribute valuable skills to the local community and economy.
Phil Bramhill, Refugee Futures’ Welcome Project Lead, stressed the project’s significance. He emphasized the importance of building relationships, forging connections, and building bridges between diverse communities.
The future success of Refugee Futures – and the wider Sustrans recycling project – hinges on the generosity of people, who can donate bicycles, offer expertise or provide equipment.
To learn more about how you can support the project, contact Sustrans at 01642 617 672.