Wheels of fortune

Rachael Halifax

We encourage our staff and students to cycle to and from Strathclyde – and one of our staff members has won a national award for promoting cycling in the community.

Rachael Halifax, a Clinical Co-ordinator in Strathclyde’s Institute of Medical Devices, devotes much of her spare time to voluntary work with cycling organisations in and around Glasgow.

Her tireless advocacy of the benefits of bikes led to her receiving a highly prestigious award, when she was named Scotland’s regional winner of the 2016 BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero award. The honour gave her the chance to attend the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony, where she met many of the UK’s greatest sportspeople of recent years.     

Rachael is using her lifelong passion for cycling to bring in new recruits to the activity at three organisations: Breeze, a women’s cycling programme run by British Cycling for which she acts as a Champion; the Glasgow Riderz, a youth and junior cycling club, and Free Wheel North, a charity based at Glasgow Green Cycling Centre for cyclists of all abilities.

She said: “I’ve had a bike as long as I can remember. I use it to commute and have had so many opportunities from riding bikes that I felt I wanted to give something back.

“I don’t do much competitive cycling – other than competing against myself – but I do take part in some ultra-cycling events, such as John O’Groats to Land’s End and London to Paris in 24 hours.

“But there are so many ways to join in cycling. You can use it to meet different people and socialise, it can be your transport or your therapy – but most of all, we want it to be a pleasure.”

The adaptability of cycling figures highly in Rachael’s voluntary work, as she helps people to choose the type of cycling, and the bike, that is right for them.

“I help people to take routes into cycling that are safe and enjoyable and encourage them to see how far they can go,” she said. “A lot of people who come to Breeze & Free Wheel North don’t have bikes of their own but we have suitable bikes they can use. If they do get their own bike, we advise them on the one that’s most appropriate for them.

“At Free Wheel North we have adapted bikes including trikes and tandems to ensure that cycling is accessible to everyone. We have cyclists who are exploring road, mountain and track cycling. Others have found cycling again through Breeze, one lady has bought a bike for the first time in 40 years!

“Some of the children just want to ride a bike and get better at it, while others are more competitive and looking to get to the next level - a lot like to go on mountain bike tracks. We teach them all the bike skills they need, so they can learn to pedal effectively and ride safely.”

Unforgettable night

Rachael had an unforgettable night at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards. The many stars she met included cyclists Sir Chris Hoy, Dame Sarah Storey, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny and Jo Rowsell-Shand, triathletes Jonny and Alistair Brownlee, heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill and gymnast Claudia Fragapane.

“It was amazing to be there and to see all that was going on,” said Rachael. “The award is great but I do feel there are other people who were just as deserving and there are many volunteers helping the three organisations running besides me. I just want to ride bikes and help other people to ride them as well.

“I do my voluntary work in my own time but my colleagues are very supportive of what I do. Strathclyde is a great place to work – it’s a place where you feel like you’re part of a family.”                      

DID YOU KNOW?

Strathclyde runs a range of initiatives to promote cycling, for fitness, sustainability – and fun. Read about our programmes .