Number of kids riding bikes to school moves up a gear

Cycle ride with school children on National Route 88, Newport to Caerleon.''''Opening of new Sustrans Connect2 bridge, Caerleon, Newport''June 8th 2011''�Sustrans''Credit: 'J Bewley/Sustrans'
Cycle ride with school children on National Route 88, Newport to Caerleon.''''Opening of new Sustrans Connect2 bridge, Caerleon, Newport''June 8th 2011''�Sustrans''Credit: 'J Bewley/Sustrans'
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A PROJECT which aims to drive up the number of children cycling to school has seen numbers double in Edinburgh with the help of initiatives like “tinsel Tuesdays”.

The I Bike scheme, run by cycling charity Sustrans, has been working with P6 and P7 pupils from ten city primaries, which are feeders for Firrhill High and Portobello High, to get them to keep up their cycling habits when they move on to secondary school.

The “tinsel Tuesdays” and “beauty and the bike” events have been designed specifically for girls and encourages youngsters to decorate their bikes.

The charity’s dedicated school cycling officers have also been working with pupils, parents and staff to introduce activities such as organised cycles to their new high school, themed bike-to-school days, maintenance sessions and cycling-themed assemblies.

The work has resulted in the number of P6 and P7 who cycle to school every day more than doubling, from 40 to 87 – or three per cent to seven per cent – in the primaries involved.

The number of children regularly cycling to school – classified as at least once a week – has also increased from 144 to 238, representing 19 per cent of pupils involved in the initiative.

John Lauder, director of Sustrans Scotland, said: “It’s a very practical project aimed at getting youngsters to maintain their levels of exercise and activity when they make the transition to secondary.

“Very often we find there is a drop for boys and almost a complete collapse for girls when they start secondary.”

The latest results published by Sustrans reveal that 58 per cent of secondary school girls are now cycling outside of school compared with 17 per cent the previous year, while the percentage of girls cycling to school increased from just one per cent to five per cent.

Lynn Stocks, a cycling officer with Sustrans, said the figures showed the “beauty and the bike” project in particular has been a success.

She has been working with S1 girls, along with employees from Lush cosmetics, to show that cycling is not just an activity for boys.

Ms Stocks said: “Using Lush is a bit of a hook for the girls to get them interested.

“It ties in health and beauty with self-esteem and environmental awareness.

“The Lush girls bring in their bikes and show them that they don’t mind wearing a helmet and cycling can be cool and glamourous.”

Education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren added: “Teachers tell us that pupils who have exercised on their way to school tend to be more alert and ready to learn and cycling is a fantastic way to get active.”

gfraser@edinburghnews.com