In a city as large and sprawling as London, it’s difficult to feel that sense of community that is present in smaller, rural areas. CycleFox is an online venture that’s seeking to change that, creating a community of like-minded people who think more cycling will have a positive impact on Londoners as a whole.
Nearly three years ago, Richard Eason was commuting along the South Bank when he decided it was time for a change in career. He knew he wanted bicycles to form part of his new purpose, and he set himself the ultimate challenge.
‘I’m passionate about helping to build stronger communities, and I believe encouraging more walking and cycling in our towns and cities can play a big part in this.’
He created CycleFox, an online hub for all London cyclists, whether they’re just starting out, or are seasoned commuters. As well as providing helpful advice on a range of topics from cycling when pregnant, to choosing the right cargo bike for a family, the website’s main purpose is to connect people with their local community.
Richard believes that cycling and supporting local business go hand-in-hand. By partnering with independent bike shops, cafes, cycling start-ups and community projects across London, CycleFox encourages people to shop local, make shorter journeys by bike, and keep their money in the community. They provide free marketing and online promotion to all partnered businesses, who in return offer great discounts to anyone carrying a CycleFox membership card.
‘It’s tough for independent businesses’, Richard reflects. ‘Lots of people talk about wanting to support local, but when it comes down to it, they’re driven by price and convenience. I understand this, I’ve done it too. But as consumers, we have to start to back up our beliefs with actions.’
It’s easy to shop local by bike. With a simple pannier or basket, you can carry the essentials, and make small but frequent food shopping trips help reduce waste, which is good for everyone. Plus, for every £1 spent in an independent business, up to 70p can remain in the local community, compared to just 5p if you spent that £1 in a large chain. By keeping money in the community and creating a demand for safe cycling infrastructure, that investment is more likely to be taken seriously.
‘Building a community from scratch is hugely challenging,’ he says. ‘What we’re trying to do is connect with like-minded people. We’re not campaigning. We just want to bring together others who share our belief that more cycling can help make happier places to live.’
CycleFox is still young. Although growing, the community is relatively small, and they’re keen to reach more people. Of course, they need to add value for current members, so the work on their community never ends. They continue to connect with independent, London-based businesses who value purpose over profits.
To that end, they offer a ‘Founding Members’ scheme, whereby anyone who persuades a local independent business to partner up with CycleFox, will get a free lifetime membership. They strongly encourage word-of-mouth recommendations and want people to get to know their local business owners.
They currently have an eclectic mix of businesses and projects on board, many of which are run by, and for, women. These include Glow and See, whose reflective knitwear is handcrafted by skilled women from disadvantaged backgrounds; Ride With Wolves, who produce stylish, hand screen-printed reflective clothing; Bike Nicks, responsible for gorgeous feminine padded cycling underwear for women; and System of Motion, who create high-performance bike-to-boardroom womenswear.
‘It’s this focus on purpose, beyond just profits, that we love. But this doesn’t always have to be quite as obvious to see, independent shops on our high streets who know and care for their local customers are all part of weaving together a strong and connected community.’
As the CycleFox community grows, they’re always seeking other ways to help people connect with each other. They recently introduced an interactive calendar, and encourage people to share their events there. With a 15,000+ following, they can help events organisers reach a wider London audience. Richard especially encourages anyone to add group rides there: ‘There’s nothing like joining a group ride to help build your confidence and learn some new routes.’
Joining them is easy, and only costs £12 a year, though if you’re not ready for membership, you can still connect. They send a monthly newsletter with their latest news and partnerships, as well as competitions to win some free goodies.
For more information about CycleFox, head over to their website here.
Of course, social media is their biggest tool, so you can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and if you take any lovely snaps of London whilst out riding, be sure to tag them on Instagram for a chance to be featured!