Why I love my bike; community-centred support changed my life
How cycling transformed Caroline’s Waugh’s life and enabled her to become an advocate for co-production, and a disabled health champion – as well as a TV appearance in Saved and Remade.
November 2020, and life looked bleak. Covid was on the increase, and to be fair I felt that with winter drawing in I was retreating into my shell to hibernate. As I read through the usual emails one sprang out, ‘People wanted for new TV series’. I was immediately energised and read on eagerly. It turned out to be one of those programmes that have become really popular on television where they transform a treasured item. Usually a tea pot, or lamp, or item of jewellery. Now I am not at all materialistic, for me it’s about how something or somebody made me feel. But absolutely nothing, and I really mean this, has made me happier than my Greenspeed GT5 trike.
I quickly typed out why my trike was special - it turned my life around
I had been a struggling disabled single Mum, with a mobility problem and not a lot of hope of independence. Back then I was a downtrodden, frumpy mother with a long list of health conditions. My disability was caused by a car accident at the age of 21. Now I am part of the National Co-production Advisory Group advising the government, amongst others, about the best to way co-produce and work alongside people with lived experience.
My trike gave me independence. I could take my own children to school. My visits to the GP had gone down from once a month to the point where they phoned me as they said they were ‘missing me!’ Cycling was introduced into my care plan with my social worker. That meant I didn’t need a Personal Assistant so I used this money to join the gym - overall it made my direct payment cheaper.
Cycling UK bought me the love of my life which was my Greenspeed trike. I was doing so much to promote disability cycling and this changed my way of life. I became the first disabled Health Champion in Sheffield, I set-up the organisation Sheffield Cycling 4 All, one of the organisations that now features on the directory of innovations in community-centred support, with Steve Marsden, the Cycling Development Officer from Cycling UK. I became an obsessive volunteer, and promoter, firstly of cycling but it unearthed a real calling in me which was my sense of social justice.
I think the real selling point to Saved and Remade, was the fact that I had carried my beautiful and so precious us 2012 Olympic Torch, whilst riding my trike.
I had cycled right back to being me again. Then I got ill with cancer and broke my leg so needed an electric trike (a bike with a battery and pedal assist.) My old trike, which was my main vehicle was now banished to the cold shed, with buckets, spades and bags of jumble covering it.
I enclosed a picture of the make and model, and pressed send. The phone rang immediately. How excited was I to be invited to the studio!
Me and my trike reunited
Covid cases were rising and the film studio was in Kirklees, a designated a Tier 3 zone, which meant travel was hard. The logistics were very difficult. Everyone was keeping their distance, but I had to get my trike out from under the buckets, spades and bags of jumble, take it apart, fold it. And get it into a car! With the help of a dynamic, smiley producer called Sadie, who had bright red talons to die for. A very helpful neighbour saved Sadie’s nails and offered to help me.
I was shielding at the time, considered extremely vulnerable, which really limited whose car I could travel to Kirklees in. Thank goodness, for my big brother, whose family were my bubble. He is always there for my glitzy moments.
I had spent ages selecting my carefully torn and ‘distressed’ jeans, a nice new top. I hadn't worn make up for eight months, this felt weird. I hadn’t seen anyone for months, and now millions were going to see me. I cycled in on my trike, met the lovely presenters, and my nerves disappeared. I chose Jon’s creation, which would transform my beloved trike with its striking yellow and red seat into a chair, which I’m sitting in now as I write this. And the wheels made a lovely lamp, which is actually my favourite of the two.
Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, I couldn’t go back to the studio for the big reveal, which would have been nice because I would have liked them to see how pleased I was with the finished items.
Now my trike is in from the cold, where it belongs and I use it every day.