Using bikes to build community: Meet Amy Balderston, Community Manager at Duke Studios

Duke Studios, a co-working and community space in Leeds City Centre, is one of our bronze Bike Friendly Businesses, receiving expert advice and support from West Yorkshire Combined Authority’ CityConnect team on how it can be more cycle friendly.

Thanks to our £4,500 grant the people at Duke Studios have benefitted from improved bike parking, maintenance equipment and three new pool bikes.

We caught up with its Community Manager Amy Balderston to hear why she decided to get involved with our Bike Friendly Business scheme and bring the joy of cycling to the whole community at Duke Studios.

About 100 people use our co-working spaces and they all travel to and from Duke Studios in different ways, but what our residents have in common is their awareness of the world around them and the impact their behaviour has on the environment.

Our company motto is people first, business second. We wanted to become a Bike Friendly Business first and foremost because of the benefits it would bring to our residents and also because of the benefits to the business.

Having the pool bikes means any of our residents can borrow one for a week and have a go at cycling before they commit to buying their own.

It’s also enabling more of us to change the way we travel across the city – whereas people would have previously taken an Uber now they take one of the pool bikes instead.

Cycling is helping bring everyone together, a way of fostering strong ties among our community.

We’ve already got some people who are really into their cycling already and go on 100km rides, as well as those who are less confident.

Another thing the pool bikes have done is to break down boundaries and connecting people, regardless of ability.

We’ve been arranging social bike rides for residents – now people who don’t have a bike can join in – and we’re organising a fundraising relay.

Everyone’s chatting about their favourite rides, swapping tips and helping each other out – avoid that route, go this way for a nice view, that sort of thing.

We’re also looking into putting on some maintenance sessions because we’ve found not knowing what to do if something went wrong with the bike can be a big barrier for someone who wants to start cycling.

It’s about building a community of knowledge among residents and instilling confidence in people so they feel like they can go off and cycle independently.

Would Amy recommend the scheme to other businesses?

Yes, 100%, get involved. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a total no brainer. CityConnect has made the whole process unbelievably easy. It’s been a two way conversation throughout with invaluable expertise from them but also a willingness to adapt to our needs.

Find out how CityConnect can help your organisation be more cycle friendly.