Teenager bags £10,000 for school cycling

Scottish 16-year-old wins funding for school bike scheme

A Scottish teenager has won £10,000 to get students cycling at his school.

Tom Sparks, 16, dreamt up the Pedals not Petrol project himself, and impressed the Scottish government so much they agreed to pay for it. 

Pupils at his school, James Gillespie’s in Edinburgh, will now get free cycle training and bike maintenance workshops. They’ll also win points for every day they cycle into class, which will go towards vouchers they can spend in major stores. 

Some 100 students have signed up for the scheme. Before it was launched only 14 students were cycling to school each day. 

Tom secured the funding for the project through the Scottish Government’s Young Persons Challenge Fund competition. He increased interest by pestering his classmates and holding regular school assemblies to publicise the project. 

Speaking to The Scotsman newspaper, Tom said: "I love cycling. It's a brilliant sport. If more people cycled, we would have much less problems with congestion. "Once people start cycling, they will begin to ask why they didn't do it before. But to get people started, you have to give them some kind of incentive. Mine was having to endure a 40-minute bus ride every day." 

Pedals not Petrol will also include an after-school bike club with free bike checks and lessons in maintenance. Youngsters will get cycle training and go on group trips. Eventually the scheme will have its own website, providing safe cycling and route information. 

Headteacher Alex Wallace said: "It's a super idea and he will generate a lot of support. He is a very confident young man and well respected. The school has quite an active environmental group, so it will add to that." 

The project, which has taken Tom more than six months to draw up, will have a three month trial and could then be made permanent. 

UK cycling charity Sustrans Bike It  project has set up similar schemes at schools across the British Isles, providing cycle training and after school clubs. You can register your interest in a Bike It scheme for your area by filling in this form

(c) BikeRadar.com

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