Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has been awarded £230,000 to get girls in Scotland cycling to school. The two-year pilot project aims to encourage girls to continue exercising once they hit their teens.
Sustrans will work with four secondary schools and their feeder primary schools, all in Perth and Edinburgh, starting in September. At present, only two percent of girls in Scotland aged nine to 16 cycle to school at least once a week. It is hoped to increase this to 15 percent in the target schools.
Lynn Marshall, of Sustrans Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to set up an innovative and imaginative project aimed at cracking a difficult area. Girls’ increasing reluctance to take part in physical activity as they move into their teenage years is well known. It is a time in their lives when many have inhibitions about how they look so we want to show that they can feel good and look great when getting about on their bikes. If we can get them to be more active as part of their everyday journeys then it will have a huge impact on their health as they enter adulthood."
The funding from cycling industry initiative Bike Hub will be used to organise events, cycle training and bike maintenance sessions. Sustrans hopes to address concerns about ‘helmet hair’ and perspiration, and promote the wider health and fitness benefits of cycling.
Ms Marshall added: “Although the project will focus on girls, it does not mean boys will be marginalised. In fact, they will also benefit from the various bike loan schemes and cycle storage and lockers that this funding will bring about.”
Minister for Transport Stewart Stevenson said: “Getting people to cycle more often and achieving a healthier and more sustainable Scotland is the overall aim of our Cycling Action Plan for Scotland. This initiative, which will also help tackle obesity and benefit the environment by taking vehicles off the road during the school run, could make a real difference and act as a real catalyst for change across our country.”
Phillip Darnton, chairman of the Bike Hub committee, said: “Bike Hub is a scheme which has been well supported by manufacturers, distributors and retailers throughout the UK. We are delighted that Sustrans will be managing this innovative project on our behalf and see the opportunity of encouraging many more women to cycle as crucial to the future of cycling."
According to the NHS in Scotland, 25 percent of Scottish women are overweight or obese – double the levels of obesity 20 years ago. This compares to obesity levels of less than 15 percent of women in Holland, Norway, France and Italy, where levels of cycling are higher.