A new Cycling Officer has joined Sustrans Scotland to encourage school children in Perth to start cycling as part of a two year pilot project to reverse students’ decreasing levels of physical activity. Kelly Richardson will work with up to 12 schools across the city, including Perth High School, Perth Academy and Oakbank Primary School, to improve cycling facilities and inspire students to pedal to school at least once a week.
The project will specifically target pupils aged nine to 16 to tackle the marked decline in cycling during the transition stage from primary to secondary school.
Kelly’s role will involve managing a number of initiatives at schools to boost levels of cycling. Additional cycle training will be given to students with specialised training for girls. With expertise from Sustrans, Kelly will also provide advice on bike maintenance and will motivate students to set up bike clubs and cycle events.
Funded by cycling initiative Bike Hub, the project is the first of its kind in Scotland and could be rolled out across the country if proved to be a success. Working in partnership with Perth and Kinross Council, Kelly will work towards increasing the number of students cycling to its targeted schools from the current national level of two per cent to 15 per cent.
She will be based in the Traffic and Road Safety section of The Environment Service at Perth and Kinross Council, and work alongside sustainable transport staff. Her work with Sustrans will complement the Council’s commitment to encouraging active travel and in particular strengthen the ongoing work with schools to promote the development and delivery of school travel plans.
Commenting on her new role, Kelly said: “I am delighted to join the Sustrans team to work in Perth and be given the opportunity to deliver a range of strategies that aim to crack the challenge of inspiring school children, particularly girls, to increase their levels of physical activity through cycling.
“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.
“Although the project will focus to a degree on girls, boys will play a part and will also benefit from the wide variety of activities that this funding will bring about. I look forward to seeing some positive results emerge from each of our targeted schools as more students take to the saddle and become healthier.”
Kelly, who grew up in Portugal, has a Masters in Environmental Sustainability from Edinburgh University. For more information on Sustrans visit www.sustrans.org.uk.