City to set up school 'bike libraries' to encourage cycling

A Scottish council is planning to buy 1,400 bikes so it can set up a bike library in 70 primary schools

Emma Seith

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A city with among the highest levels of child poverty in the UK is hoping to ensure every child has access to a bike by opening a “bike library” in 70 of its primary schools.

Glasgow City Council is planning to buy 1,400 bikes at a cost of £350,000 in a bid to encourage more children to cycle to school. The council has also set aside another £80,000 to cover the cost of employing two people to maintain and repair the bicycles.

The scheme – which will see each school involved receiving 20 bikes – has been introduced at the suggestion of Green councillors in the city. The schools that will be targeted are those already signed up to cycling proficiency scheme, Bikeability Scotland, with the bikes likely to be loaned out to a child for the entire school year.

Martha Wardrop, the Green councillor for Glasgow’s Hillhead, told Tes Scotland that although cycling to school was on the rise in Glasgow the city’s figures remained lower than Edinburgh’s.

The percentage of students who cycled to school in Glasgow rose from 1.4 per cent in 2008 to 2.8 per cent in 2016, according to the Hands Up Scotland Survey conducted annually by walking and cycling charity, Sustrans Scotland. But the percentage of students who cycled to school in Edinburgh in 2016 was 5.7 per cent, the survey found.

Safety first

Concerns about safety and the cost of buying a bike had stopped children in Glasgow from cycling to school, said Ms Wardrop.

A survey earlier this year found the main barrier to children walking or cycling to school was parents’ fears over safety. Meanwhile, a study by the End Child Poverty campaign earlier this year found Glasgow Central ranks 12th out of 650 constituencies in the UK for child poverty, with 45 per cent of all children living in poverty.

Ms Wardrop continued: “It is encouraging to see the number of children cycling to school in Glasgow has doubled. However, this is well below what should be expected in terms of the overall rise in numbers of people cycling on Glasgow's roads.

“We know that poverty may have hindered the development of cycling to school in Glasgow. This scheme will make active travel more accessible to children from more disadvantaged circumstances.”

Twenty bikes per school were “small scale” but it was important the scheme was manageable for school staff who were already under a lot of pressure, she said.

Ms Wardrop added: “We know that there are huge demands already on teachers’ time. Hopefully, they will feel this isn’t too much extra work for them to support.”

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