Hundreds of Aberdeenshire pupils are to be offered a free bicycle as part of a new active travel pilot scheme.
Sustrans, in collaboration with Aberdeenshire Council, are striving to make bikes more accessible across the region through the initiation of their IBike programme.
Around 700 children aged between nine and 14 are to be supported through the scheme, with priorities being made for those who cannot afford them.
The organisation is one of six new pilot projects being rolled out by the Scottish Government as part of their first 100 day commitments.
The projects will test delivery models in urban and rural locations, across primary and secondary school ages and trial various procurement models.
Transport minister Graeme Dey said: “I’m blown away by how community groups, active travel and cycling partners have responded to our 100 day commitment.
“We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover when thinking about how best we can assess need, build in accessibility for all and ensure supply and delivery models which are sustainable for urban, rural and island communities across Scotland.”
He added: “The benefits of providing greater access to bikes for children are obvious.
“It ensures equality of opportunity in building life skills, confidence, independence and embeds healthy and sustainable travel habits from a young age. Ensuring that more children can choose active travel including cycling is vital to help meet our world leading net zero targets.”
Sustrans have outlined three ways the scheme will be trialled in Aberdeenshire as well as in West Lothian and Dumfries and Galloway.
A fleet of bikes will be provided to each school to prevent barriers and stigma against those who don’t have access to the mode of transport.
A pool of bikes, including adaptive bikes will be loaned out to pupils who don’t have access to one.
This will extend the access to bikes beyond the sessions at school and enable pupils to use them at home and for journeys to and from school.
Officials will also explore options for pupils to be given ownership of a bike – either through provision of their loan bike after a given period or using a voucher to buy a new bike.
The pilots will test a variety of ownership, loan and subscription models and undertake various methods of assessing need to ensure inclusion and accessibility.
Local bike shops will be included in the scheme, aimed at exploring potential opportunities to maximise benefits for the local supply chain, including recycling bikes and encouraging a circular economy approach.
Further pilots are due to be announced across the nation in the coming months.
Shifting their way of thinking
Shanaze Reade, ambassador for Children and Young People for the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships said the scheme will give young people the “freedom” to explore the world’s endless possibilities whilst encouraging them to take up an active lifestyle.
She said: “For me having access to a bike can open up so many possibilities and I’m delighted to see these pilot projects being rolled out, particularly in hard to reach communities.
“Growing up I had to overcome barriers to accessing a bike and I was lucky enough to be given one to race on, allowing me to experience all the benefits and freedom riding a bike can give.
“The 2023 Cycling Worlds will be a great opportunity to inspire the next generation of world champions, but this will only work if all kids have a bike to ride.
“By shifting our way of thinking and providing kids with the chance to get on a bike, we can encourage them to take up the cycling as a sport, particularly with the spotlight on BMX after an incredible Tokyo Olympics.”