HUNDREDS more pupils in the Capital are being given cycling training amid a drive to ensure all youngsters have the confidence to travel on their bikes.
New figures show 2471 children in primary six received training under the nationwide Bikeability scheme, which teaches road awareness such as how to approach junctions, interact with traffic and identify hazards during short journeys to school or the local shops.
Participation rates in the last year have jumped 30 per cent – from 1888 P6 pupils – with the number of primary schools offering courses leaping from 53 to 69.
The rise, achieved courtesy of a £35,250 funding boost from Cycling Scotland, means schools are well on their way to meeting a target of providing training to every one of Edinburgh’s 3480 P6 pupils.
Senior teachers said they were delighted at the news and predicted it would lead to a step-change in attitudes towards health and fitness among young people.
Linda Darroch, depute headteacher at Bonaly Primary, said the Bikeability scheme had already sparked a mini-boom, with children as young as nine now cycling to school.
She said: “We have a bike rack at the back of the school, which is regularly full of bikes.
“There are lots of pupils actively cycling to school.
“Whereas before it was just P7s, it’s now children in P5 and P6 coming on their bikes when the weather is good.
“I would like to hope that our P7 pupils will be able to cycle to Firrhill High when they leave us rather than having to get a lift or take the bus.”
The trend has also been welcomed by Lorna Norman, active schools coordinator for the Firrhill High cluster, who works with youngsters at Bonaly, Colinton, Longstone, Oxgangs and Pentland primaries.
She said the training was designed to boost pupils’ confidence and independence, as well as overall fitness.
“I think that, in school, there are a lot more opportunities for pupils to be active in many different ways, but cycling is a skill that the children will learn for life,” she said.
“Once you’re taught to ride a bike, you don’t forget it.
“This is about making pupils aware that there are lots of safe routes that they can cycle on and encouraging them to be independent and responsible on the bike.”
Ian Maxwell, spokesman for cycling campaign group Spokes, said: “We feel that this is a whole new generation of children getting a chance to learn about riding a bike and that we have missed out on quite a few of the previous generation.
“This is a real investment in the future of cycling in Edinburgh and we look forward to the council getting an even higher percentage involved in future years, alongside all the work they are doing in improving facilities for cycling.”
Education chiefs said the primary school cycling project was part of a wider drive aimed at enabling residents of all ages to benefit from active travel.
Councillor Adam McVey, deputy transport leader, said: “Bikeability is all about boosting children’s confidence on two wheels so that they can get out there and make the most of Edinburgh’s growing cycling provision, including the family-friendly cycle network.”