Free bikes instead of bus passes for schoolkids?

Liverpool Council considering scheme

A motion put before Liverpool City Council in the UK suggests giving school students the option of a free bike instead of a bus pass.

Husband and wife councillors Paul and Jan Clein have came up with the idea and the Liverpool Schools Parliament backed it.

First mooted by Jan Clein three years ago, the motion advocates that pupils would also get safety gear, proficiency courses and a temporary bus pass for the winter.

Speaking to BikeRadar, councillor Paul Clein explained the background behind the proposal: "The idea originated with my wife. She had worked out that for the cost of a schoolchild's bus pass - around £125 in those days - you could provide a bike instead, help fight obesity and ensure that the city network of cycle lanes was well-used.

"The council have now been formally asked to look at all the issues behind this proposal and a report on its feasibility is due back before Christmas. One objection raised when we approached the council with it informally was that the council might be sued if a child got injured. The council have now been asked to look at all such possible objections seriously to see if they hold water. Hopefully the idea will be adopted and we will see several thousand secondary age pupils eligible for free bikes."

This is not the first initiative in Liverpool to encourage cycling in this way. A TravelWise project earlier this year offered many Liverpool residents free bikes, free maintenance advice, lessons and route planning advice in an effort to increase cycling.

A Transport Select Committee report on school travel in March recommended councils to consider supplying pupils with free bikes to ride to school. Louise Ellman, chair of the committee, said: "It would be a good idea to give bikes to families who can't afford them. There is a scheme in Liverpool where bikes are lent to people to help them get to jobs. That could be expanded."

In Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, Berry Hill High School is planning to offer free bikes to pupils who join them in year 7 next year. They expect that over 100 new starters will get a bike along with others who earn them through a points scheme based on achievements in school. Claiming a bike is tied to passing a cycling proficiency test and agreeing to wear a helmet, amongst other conditions.

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