Making cycling accessible for everyone - Ride Out Ride On

Making cycling accessible for everyone - Ride Out Ride On

Making the joy and freedom of cycling accessible to all is the mission of Holly McGowan Hayes, the Founder and rider of Ride Out Ride On (RORO for short).

RORO is a social enterprise based in Bristol that works with adults and children living with different disabilities and/or long-term health conditions to explore the outdoors. They do this by delivering 1-1 cycle rides using specialist tandems and a network of traffic-free routes in and around Bristol.

The dryrobe® Warmth Project proudly supports organisations that help and encourage people to experience the outdoors. We are stoked to provide RORO with customised dryrobe® Advance change robes so participants can enjoy their time on the tandem by staying warm and dry, whatever the weather!
People wearing customised RORO navy dryrobe® Advance change robes stood in a line in the street
We were keen to talk to Holly about the importance of accessible cycling, Bristol’s traffic-free, and low-traffic cycling routes and the development of RORO’s inclusive and adaptable cycle service.
Holly wearing a customised RORO navy dryrobe® Advance change robe
As a keen cyclist yourself, you’ve cycled throughout the world. What does cycling mean to you and why did you want to ensure that it was an accessible sport for more people to enjoy through RORO?
Cycling for me is a means to feel free and to propel myself to places I want to be, on my own terms. Since my early twenties, cycling has been a practical way to have an adventure on a shoestring –piling the bike high with tents, cooking equipment, a spare pair of shorts…

I’ve seen amazing places and have benefited from huge amounts of generosity – in Mongolian ger camps, rural Cuban towns, and tiny Georgian hamlets, amongst many others. It has shown me the power of human kindness and of possibility.

Seeing that the same freedoms and choices aren’t afforded to everybody, RORO is my attempt to level out the playing field.
Two people cycling on an accessible tandem bike
What was the initial response to RORO like and how has it developed?
I’ve had a positive response right from the very beginning. It’s a simple idea that works and is needed.

Learning how to take the practical steps to make the idea a reality has been a tough ol’ journey, but intensely rewarding. I’ve worked in close partnership with the clients and their support networks from the start - that’s how RORO has taken shape and that’s how RORO continues to grow.

How have you managed the growing demand for RORO?
Demand has increased steadily across the city and since lockdown there has been a rise in people accessing RORO for mental health reasons as well as physical. Now that we are collaborating with bigger organisations – local authorities, GPs, national charities – RORO has become much more established in Bristol.

I have already begun training up other riders to go out and deliver sessions. It’s always a bit scary taking on other people into a business you’ve grown by yourself, but I’m proud to say that RORO boasts a brilliant team of confident, caring and capable riders. We are now frequently delivering multiple sessions at any given time, and it’s really motivating to think how big RORO’s scope could be in the future.
A RORO cyclist on a tandem bike with another cyclist
RORO has developed a bank of traffic-free, and low-traffic routes in and around the Bristol area. How easy was it to discover these routes and is it something you would like to see develop more in the future in the city?
I’ve been using my bike to get around Bristol long before I started RORO, so I was able to hit the ground running. Traffic-free routes are particularly important for RORO for staying safe and relaxed on the bike and Sustrans is a great resource that I use regularly.

I’m really grateful to be living in a place with such a progressive approach to urban and sustainable transport. There’s always more to be done, though, and I’m thrilled to be part of the call for a bigger cycle network better able to meet the needs of riders using different bikes to accommodate their needs.

What do you think it is about being on a bike that helps people to feel uplifted and independent?
Something a client said recently sums it up - riding the bike has ‘ met the primary need of experiencing freedom, excitement, and joy. This is the highlight of my week’.

Clients are positioned on the front of the bike and are able to pedal as much or as little as they like, so there’s that sense of being self-propelled, in a safe, pressure-free, and fun way. Options and choices are often limited for disabled people and since RORO is a service that is designed to the individual, the feeling that ‘this is something I can do!’ gives people such a boost.
A person on a RORO bike waving
Have you had any customers who have been nervous about cycling with RORO and how have you helped them to feel more confident and comfortable?
I recognise that this is a new experience for most people, so I work hard before the first session to make sure we are as prepared as possible.

People come with anxieties, sometimes relating to adverse experiences or have tried activities that haven’t suited them, so this is a huge deal! We take it slowly and the client leads the charge - once we’ve built up a bit of trust and confidence, we’re away! It becomes something that people look forward to and the laughs and the smiles speak for themselves.

What exciting plans are coming up for RORO in the next year or so?
Seeing how well it’s going in Bristol, we’re looking to increase RORO’s reach to people in different parts of the country too.

We are welcoming collaborations and partnerships to improve the reach of RORO. That could be volunteering time or through sponsorship and funding opportunities.

This is social change in action and I have a feeling that the future of RORO is bright!
A group of RORO cyclists wearing navy dryrobe® Advance change robes with their back to the camera
Follow RoRo:

Instagram: @rideoutrideon
Facebook: @rideoutrideon

#dryrobeterritory

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