£230,000 to get Scottish schoolgirls cycling

Schoolgirls in Scotland will be encouraged to start cycling to tackle their decreasing levels of activity as part of a two-year pilot project.

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has been awarded £230,000 to get girls aged nine to 16 cycling to school at least once a week. It will aim to increase this percentage to 15 per cent in its targeted schools from the current national level of two per cent.

The cycling industry initiative Bike Hub is providing funding for Sustrans to organise cycle to school events, cycle training and bike maintenance for girls. The charity will also inspire girls to banish their concerns over ‘helmet hair’ and perspiration with cycling fashion tips, and by promoting the wider health and fitness benefits.

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.

“We have already shown our ability to inspire girls to get on their bikes with projects such as Bike It, and the Scottish Government-funded Tackling the School Run programme.

“Although the project will focus on girls, it does not mean that 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.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Transport, said: “This fantastic project is the first of its kind in Scotland. I welcome any project which will help to persuade people to use more sustainable forms of travel such as trains, buses, walking and cycling.

“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, chair 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.

"It's fitting that we have been able to launch a scheme with the Scottish Government, funded by Bike Hub, for the benefit of cycling in Scotland."

Sustrans will work with four secondary schools and their feeder primary schools, in Perth and Edinburgh starting in September.

The funding was secured during Sustrans’ year-long campaign to get more women cycling to improve their health. According to the NHS in Scotland, 25 per cent of Scottish women are overweight or obese – double the levels of obesity 20 years ago. This compares to obesity levels of less than 15 per cent of women in Holland, Norway, France and Italy – where levels of cycling are higher.

Sustrans is the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity. Its vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. It is achieving this through innovative but practical solutions to the UK’s transport challenges.

Sustrans’ flagship project, the National Cycle Network, is now around 12,000 miles and runs within one mile of 55 per cent of the UK population. During 2008 a total of 386 million trips were made on the Network. There are around 2,500 rangers helping to look after the National Cycle Network.

In Scotland, around 2,000 miles of route are now open.

Throughout 2009 Sustrans is encouraging more women to cycle. The website www.bikebelles.org.uk has advice for women on what to wear, where to go, how to get started and a specially recruited women’s panel are sharing ideas and experiences. The thoughts and concerns of women, gathered throughout the year, will be used to inform our approach to UK governments with proposals on how to help more women get out and about on bikes, to the benefit of their health, the environment and our economy.

Sustrans’ Bike It project receives funding from Cycling England with the support of the Department for Transport, Bike Hub – the cycle industry levy, the Big Lottery Fund's Well-being Programme, the National Assembly for Wales, Transport for London and support from partner local authorities.

Cycling England is the expert body set up by Government to promote cycling nationally. Further information about Cycling England can be found at www.cyclingengland.co.uk