AFTER he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Robert De Jager thought he would have to give up his beloved cycling forever.

“We used to cycle a lot, and we loved going on biking holidays,” says Robert, from Cambuslang. “Having Parkinson’s, I knew I’d never be able to manage a two-wheeled bike again. Balance is difficult.”

He adds, smiling: “So I was very happy to hear about this club.”

Robert has joined the Phoenix Parkinson’s Cycle Club, the very first group of its kind in Scotland.

Started thanks to Cycling UK’s funding of £65,885, the Easterhouse club has purchased eight specially adapted tricycles.

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Easterhouse Phoenix director Caroline Cumming explains: “We do a lot of work with Scottish Cycling already, because we are keen to provide as much access to cycling as possible.

“Cycling is a great thing for both physical and mental health.”

She adds: “We run a Parkinson’s café at the centre, and I was chatting to Nathan Brown, from Scottish Cycling, about whether we could run bike sessions for people who come to the café. One of his relatives has Parkinson’s, too, so he was keen to have the discussion and It just took off from there.”

Glasgow Times: Caroline Cumming and Emily RyderCaroline Cumming and Emily Ryder (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

Nathan adds: “Cycling is a great way to stay active and it has lots of benefits for people living with Parkinson's, such as improved balance and co-ordination."

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Caroline set about sourcing funding for specially adapted cycles, and was delighted to be awarded £50,885 from Cycling UK’s Cycle Share Fund and a further £15,000 from its Access Bike Fund.

The club is now the proud owner of eight top of the range Dutch Van Raam trikes and free sessions run on Mondays.

“The tricycles are more stable than two-wheeled bikes, and there are special adaptations like straps on the pedals, because stability and security are really important. We worked with Parkinson’s UK to make sure we got what people needed.”

The club is free, like most of the activities at Phoenix, says Caroline.

“The most we charge is £2, because we believe lack of finance should not be a barrier to participation,” she adds.

“The club will allow people who have Parkinson’s to still be active and healthy, and we’re also planning to get out and about, with trips to places like Millport, for example.”

Glasgow Times: Representatives of Cycling UK, Scottish Cycling and Easterhouse PhoenixRepresentatives of Cycling UK, Scottish Cycling and Easterhouse Phoenix (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

Emily Ryder, programme manager with Cycling UK, says the club is an exciting first for Scotland.

“It is fantastic, and we’re delighted to support it,” she adds. “The one thing that unites all our projects is the desire to help people access bikes, especially those who cannot afford to buy them, or insure them, or even have storage for them.

“We need there to be places like this where people can get support in a safe place.

“It’s a nice idea to take the club out to different places too. Our aim is always to normalise cycling and to make it as accessible as possible.”

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Emily and her colleagues joined Phoenix volunteers and representatives from Parkinson’s UK and Scottish Cycling at the club’s launch event in Easterhouse Sports Centre.

Easterhouse Phoenix is a hub of sports, music, art and learning for people of all ages, which attracts hundreds of people each week, who take part in assorted activities, including boxing, cycling, table tennis, chair yoga and more.

Last year, Phoenix, in partnership with Easterhouse Community Sports Hub and Basketball Scotland, stepped in to save the area’s sports centre through the People Make Glasgow Community process, a city-wide project which aims to provide groups with facilities and support to meet needs specific to their neighbourhoods.

In the sports hall, Robert De Jager and his wife Marti joined in the trial session with enthusiasm.

For the retired chef and restaurateur, the club is a game-changer.

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s three years ago,” he explains. “It is not so much of a challenge, most of the time, but I cannot walk as well as I did.

“Marti and I moved to Glasgow two years ago because our son had a flat here, and we loved it, so we stayed."

Robert adds: "This club will allow me to keep cycling. It will allow me to keep doing the thing I have always loved.”