Women on Social Impact: Biking, Bikeworks, & Zoe Portlock


Zoe Portlock

Ever since the pandemic that has taken the world aback, numerous companies found a decline in their businesses.  A lot of employees and workers have lost their jobs and quite frankly our economy has taken a dip as well. Though despite the whole phenomenon, the biking industry seemed to be rising despite the ongoing concerns.

Bike shops have been meeting more new faces.  The biking industry had found an increase of up to 75% or $1 Billion Dollars in April 2020 according to NPD. This particularly marked the first time that the industry crossed the billion threshold in a single month value of sales which ranges from just $550 million to $575 million monthly.

The question now is, why do people now shift to cycling?

The Great Biking Shift

More people now are shifting to biking than taking mass transportations or than driving their vehicles. A lot of factors have probably can be attributed to this shift. However, the primary driver for the shift may possibly be traced back to the ongoing pandemic with Covid.

During the onset of the lockdown where there had been limitations with the mass transport, health & essential workers who do not have their own cars had difficulties going to work. Not only the health workers are affected but everyone who does not possess a private car, when getting groceries had been a major and difficult task. Most of these health works then turn to a more affordable and greater alternative that will take minimal effort to get and to use. In addition to the concerns on the inadequacy of mass transport, people have growing woes with possible Covid transmission.

Moreover, fuel prices are in high surge nowadays. And driving to work for yourself is now getting impractical. Due to practicality, biking to and off to work would be a cheaper alternative to that. Thus, most employees and workers now are also biking instead of driving.

Seasoned Bikers are also seeing a better environment for biking enthusiasts – the streets are now clearer and with less traffic, more lanes dedicated just for bicycles are being provided.

Bikers tend to be on the healthier side. Though aside from the health benefits, I’d like to pinpoint how biking by itself can already help the environment. In a study by Environmental Protection Act, a typical passenger car that drives around 11,500 miles per year will emit around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.  By choosing to bike instead of driving your car just once a day, you can already reduce your carbon footprint by 67%.

What is Bikeworks

Zoe Portlock and Jim Blakemore established Bikeworks in 2006 in London. Back then, they were inspired the London being the country host for 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They took this opportunity for excluded people and to reach the wider community with their goal which is cycling for all.

Bikeworks strongly believes in inclusivity for everyone. Regardless of one’s situation, one should be given opportunities to learn or be able to cycle. The goal is interlaced with other social impacts as well like environmental impacts.

Bikeworks’ revenue model is generated through cycling & maintenance courses, their repair centers, and through selling bicycles. These revenues in turn helps them to be able to provide free-to-access inclusive cycling campaigns. They have organized activities as well like the All-Ability Clubs, where they get to help 3,000 people with disabilities and their care men and/or women to access cycling lessons.

Zoe Portlock, Bikeworks, and the Pandemic

Zoe, along with Jim has been managing Bikeworks, and currently serves as the Co-Chair & Co-Founder. Aside from her duties in Bikeworks, she is also a social enterprise and charity consultant.

Prior to opening up Bikeworks, Zoe had already her fair share of charity experiences that span a total of over 20 years. She has specifically worked for social impact on inclusivity and children welfare and how to provide support for those with needs to feel inclusive.

It is this primary experience that drove her to co-found Bikeworks with Jim when they heard that London will be hosting the Olympic & Paralympic Games. This made them realize how they can use this to help those with disabilities to get to learn and feel included.

Zoe Portlock also emphasizes how social entrepreneurs should be driven by their purpose and beckon what being a social entrepreneur are. When they (Zoe Portlock and Bikeworks) looked upon when the pandemic started, their initial reaction was how was it going to affect the people they are working with.

“Having worked in the charity/social enterprise sector in community settings in London for over 20 years, I’ve seen first-hand the damage of over a decade of austerity and its effects on people and their families – the inequality that exists in the UK and particularly in places like London is extreme, so my initial reaction was “how on earth will people cope?” The system is already broken and if we follow the reaction of self-isolation as other parts of the world had implemented, what kind of place would we come out to after lock-down is lifted?”

– Zoe Portlock, Co-Founder

Bikeworks and Zoe Portlock in particular had been affected by the onset of the pandemic. In particular, cycling Classes has been limited due to Covid concerns. However, they focused on finding solutions for the people who would most likely help. For her, the major impact of this pandemic is to move to action. They have found digital solutions and moved their operations online.

This shifted their priorities into how they, a cycling social enterprise, can greatly help those who are affected by the ongoing crisis. When asked by June O’ Sullivan on how she kept going despite the tough times we’re facing, Zoe said:  

“Keeping focus on the “doing”, picking up the phone, reaching out to people – good people, people who hold your values and get what you’re up to. Remembering to say thank you – there are great people out there making a difference in their own ways, letting them know that you recognize it and showing gratitude is linked to our own happiness too, it’s a win-win no-brainer!”

– Zoe Portlock, Co-Founder

Get to know more about Zoe Portlock and Bikeworks on their website.

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