Sustrans is to launch a pilot project in Scotland aimed at encouraging schoolgirls to cycle.
The sustainable transport charity has been awarded £230,000 to get girls aged nine to 16 cycling to school at least once a week. It will aim to increase this percentage to 15 per cent in its targeted schools from the current national level of two per cent.
The cycling industry initiative Bike Hub is providing funding for Sustrans to organise cycle to school events, cycle training and bike maintenance for girls. The charity will also inspire girls to banish their concerns over ‘helmet hair’ and perspiration with cycling fashion tips, and by promoting the wider health and fitness benefits.
Lynn Marshall, of Sustrans Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to set up an innovative and imaginative project aimed at cracking a difficult area. Girls’ increasing reluctance to take part in physical activity as they move into their teenage years is well known.
“It is a time in their lives when many have inhibitions about how they look so we want to show that they can feel good and look great when getting about on their bikes. If we can get them to be more active as part of their everyday journeys then it will have a huge impact on their health as they enter adulthood.
“Although the project will focus on girls, it does not mean that boys will be marginalised. In fact, they will also benefit from the various bike loan schemes and cycle storage and lockers that this funding will bring about.”
Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Transport, said: “This fantastic project is the first of its kind in Scotland. I welcome any project which will help to persuade people to use more sustainable forms of travel such as trains, buses, walking and cycling.
“Getting people to cycle more often and achieving a healthier and more sustainable Scotland is the overall aim of our Cycling Action Plan for Scotland. This initiative, which will also help tackle obesity and benefit the environment by taking vehicles off the road during the school run, could make a real difference and act as a real catalyst for change across our country.”
Phillip Darnton, chair of the Bike Hub committee, said: “Bike Hub is a scheme which has been well supported by manufacturers, distributors and retailers throughout the UK.
"We are delighted that Sustrans will be managing this innovative project on our behalf and see the opportunity of encouraging many more women to cycle as crucial to the future of cycling.
"It's fitting that we have been able to launch a scheme with the Scottish Government, funded by Bike Hub, for the benefit of cycling in Scotland."
Sustrans will work with four secondary schools and their feeder primary schools, in Perth and Edinburgh starting in September.
The funding was secured during Sustrans’ year-long campaign to get more women cycling to improve their health. 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.