A volunteer initiative sharing books with people during the pandemic has reached another milestone.

Bookbike London, started by Barking man and community volunteer Emdad Rahman in late 2019, has distributed more than 4,000 books to schools, care homes and individuals across east London.

Soon after the project was launched at the Barking Learning Centre, the pandemic hit - giving it “new and vital relevance”.

Mr Rahman said: “Up until then I had been sharing books with care homes, schools and individuals, but all of a sudden we had the whole nation on lockdown and this bought people’s emotional and mental health instabilities to the fore.

“I found pockets within Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Hackney where several people were suffering greatly as a result of isolation and lack of human contact.

“I found that a good book or word-search greatly helped soothe people’s anxieties, stress and depression.”

Through his daily trips by bike, Mr Rahman was able to maintain his own physical and mental health wellbeing, too.

“Bookbike London allows me to spend a few precious extra seconds on people’s doorsteps to have a chat and check on wellbeing,” he said.

“It keeps me fit, happy and I don’t have to worry about parking tickets.”

Mr Rahman - who has lived, worked and volunteered in Barking and Dagenham and Tower Hamlets his whole life - said the project combined his passion for books and cycling.

It has been a key feature of the outreach work by the East End Covid Support Network, which has shared 34,000 food parcels during the pandemic.

“We started a foodbank in Tower Hamlets and the Hedgecock Centre in Barking,” Mr Rahman said.

“Bookbike London began to play an increasingly crucial role in the community, enabling me to now share and deliver books, food parcels, clothes and medicine with friends, family, colleagues and complete strangers.”

Mr Rahman has now set his sights on reaching the 5,000 figure by Christmas.

“I’d like to thank my family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers for donating books for me to share,” he said.

“Some people have travelled hours to come and drop books, take a selfie and go back.

“The support has been phenomenal.”