Thieves have taken all 11 newly-delivered bikes from a community charity cycling group, in what has been described as a 'callous theft'.
Walsall Arboretum Community Cycle Club in the West Midlands has been forced to suspend its activity after the theft of the bikes, which took place at some point between the evening of Saturday, November 11, and Sunday, November 12.
Thieves gained access to a locked area in Walsall Arboretum to remove the bikes, which had only recently been purchased thanks to £3000 of funding through Sport England with support from Walsall Council.
The charity's bicycles were used free of charge by local residents to "rediscover the wonderful health and social benefits of regular cycling". Walsall Arboretum Community Cycle Club is affiliated to national organisation Cycling UK.
Cycling UK’s cycling development officer for the West Midlands, Lesley Easter, said: “We had our first meeting when the bikes were delivered on 26 September and we’ve seen continuous high participation. The group is made up mostly of bright and brilliant senior citizens, most of them ladies, including Joan, the eldest at 85 years old.
“The bicycles were brand new, and chosen specifically for new or unconfident cyclists. It is an upsetting crime, and deeply frustrating for everyone.”
The theft has left many of the club's members without access to a bike. Tina Eglington, 48, was left upset after the incident: "I’m a full-time carer for my son who has mental disabilities, so this group has been a wonderful stress reliever during the little free time I have.
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“I’ve loved it, I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s changed my life. It’s become a real little community, with no judgement as we’re all in the same boat.
“When I heard about what happened I wanted to cry. Where can I learn now?”
Cycling UK is appealing for anyone to donate an unwanted bike to the group. It can be contacted by emailing email@example.com or by telephoning 01483 238 315 or 07786 320 713.
Police are currently investigating the incident.
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