UK cycling charity Sustrans is celebrating the huge growth of its school cycling scheme.
The number of British schoolchildren taking part in the organisation's Bike It project who are now cycling has trebled for the third year in a row.
The announcement comes as young people across the UK gear up to take part in Bike to School Week.
Some 11,000 pupils at 52 schools were surveyed as part of the Bike It project and Sustrans found that nearly half of all pupils (47per cent) wanted to cycle to school. But, according to the National Travel Survey only two per cent of UK schoolchildren actually do.
Sustrans says the Bike It project, now in its fourth year, is continuing to buck all the trends for cycling to school – everyday cycling levels are five times the national average in its schools and in some cases even higher. The project is led by a team of Bike It officers, who each work with about ten schools for a year or more to make it possible for young people to cycle.
Officers work with pupils, parents and teachers to help them overcome whatever it is that is preventing them from cycling to school – by organising cycle training, helping to install new bike sheds, contributing to classroom work and providing information about safe routes to schools.
During Bike to School Week participating schools are taking part in a virtual race from Cairo to Cape Town as part of the project.
The event is based on the international Tour d’Afrique Bike Race and is designed to encourage children to cycle to school on a regular basis. It will also demonstrate to children and their parents the huge amount of distance that can be covered collectively by bike. The pupils are monitoring their progress on a giant map of Africa and taking part in lessons based on the places they virtually travel through.
Sustrans has produced a free resource for parents and teachers to help them organise their own cycling events in Bike to School Week. It can be downloaded from the Pedalpack web page here.
Malcolm Shepherd, who takes over as Sustrans CEO in June said: “This is the third annual report we have produced for the Bike It project and it continues to be a truly inspirational programme. The report highlights how important it is to create the right environment to encourage young people and families to cycle to school – it shows that if the support is there, you really can bring about a positive change, benefiting people’s health and the environment.
“In the space of just over three years we have seen the team expand from four officers to nearly 30 people giving an estimated 60,000 children across England and Wales positive cycling experiences. I look forward to the project expanding even further over the coming years and hope that one day every pupil in the UK can take part in Bike It.”
Mark Brown, director of the Association of Cycle Traders said: “The Bike It scheme is a fantastic achievement, of which the UK cycle industry is very pleased to have played a part in supporting over the past three years. The excellent results really do highlight that cycling is relevant to many children, giving them an opportunity to make the most of a healthy and fun way of getting to school. I am sure Bike It will give more children a life-long enjoyment of cycling which will benefit them for years to come.”
The Bike It project is funded and supported by Cycling England, Bike Hub – the cycle industry levy, the Big Lottery Fund's Well-being Programme, the National Assembly for Wales, Transport for London and partner local authorities.