EVERY four-year-old in Scotland’s largest city will be taught to ride a bike as part of a unique project launched today to encourage them to cycle for the rest of their lives.
The Play on Pedals scheme is the first in the UK aimed at getting every Glasgow child into the saddle before they start school, and organisers hope it will be repeated across the country if successful.
The initiative means 7,500 four-year-olds will be given cycle training at nurseries and other venues over the next two years.
Play on Pedals will have 500 bikes for both youngsters and their relatives to try, to encourage families to cycle together.
An annual bike swap will be staged to ensure cycles are re-used as children grow, and a children’s cycling festival is also planned.
The scheme will be jointly run by cycle groups CTC, Cycling Scotland, Glasgow Bike Station – which recycles bikes – and Play Scotland, and will also involve 50 community groups.
It has been funded by a record £232,000 grant by the People’s Postcode Trust’s Dream Fund.
Play on Pedals was to be launched today by the UK’s number one female BMX freestyler Kayley Ashworth and fellow BMX rider Ali Cameron.
Development officer Polly Jarman said: “By teaching kids to ride a bike at an early stage, we hope they establish a lifelong relationship with cycling and its many health, environmental and social benefits.
“By providing resources and training in local communities, we aim to end exclusion from cycling for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and remove the financial strain which some parents may associate with cycling. In creating a future generation of cyclists, we hope to make Glasgow a more cycle-friendly city as a whole, delivering our own lasting legacy in the wake of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
Transport minister Keith Brown has said more children cycling – and more cycle commuting – was the best way to realise the Scottish Government’s ambition of increasing cycling from 1 to 2 per cent of trips to 10 per cent by 2020.
However, a report published last year showed only ten of Scotland’s 32 councils have made significant improvements to cycling in the previous five years and there was “no consistent approach across Scotland”.
Mr Brown has said cycling provision in Scotland is “decades behind” where it should be.
Cycling Scotland, the Scottish Government-funded national cycle promotion agency, said the scheme was a welcome addition to its Bikeability Scotland training programme, which children normally start in primary five, at around nine years old.
Senior development officer Christopher Johnson said: “Our trainers frequently tell us of children they have taught to ride a bike for the first time.
“Therefore, by focusing on early years children, we have the opportunity to get access to all children at a much younger age and ensure they’ve all had the chance to develop skills and confidence to ride a bike long before they reach primary five.”