£4.5m funding for Cycling Scotland youth projects

CYCLING Scotland was today given an extra £4.5 million - its biggest ever single grant - by the Scottish Government to boost the number of school pupils and college students taking to bikes.

Cycling Scotland want to encourage more young people to use their bikes. Picture: TSPL

The cash, which includes boosting the Bikeability scheme for children, comes two months after Scotland on Sunday highlighted that little or no such safety training was available in parts of the country.

The two-year grant will also fund a pilot “cycle friendly campus” at a college or university to encourage students to take up or continue cycling.

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Transport minister Keith Brown said the focus of the funding would be on reducing carbon emissions and teaching young people to cycle safely.

Mr Brown will tomorrow take part in the annual Pedal on Parliament event in Edinburgh for the first time, in which thousands of cyclists converge on Holyrood to lobby for safer cycling.

A total of 12 cyclists died on Scotland’s roads last year, the most since 2005, with four so far this year.

The new funding follows £20m announced by Mr Brown last September for road improvements for cycling.

However, Cycling Scotland figures show the Bikeability scheme, which was launched three years ago by cycling legend Graeme Obree, has not been available in four council areas.

The 2012-13 figures, for the part of the scheme in which ten and 11-year-olds are taught how to cycle safely on roads, also showed it covered a tiny fraction of primary schools in several other areas.

By contrast, three in four schools in Aberdeenshire, Angus and South Ayrshire were involved in the scheme.

Mr Brown said: “The Scottish Government is committed to investing in cycling infrastructure, training and road safety projects through organisations such as Cycling Scotland and Sustrans to make Scotland a more active, healthy and low carbon nation and increase the numbers of people choosing to cycle each day.”

Ministers have a “shared vision” for one in ten journeys to be by bike by 2020 compared to 1-2 per cent now.

Cycling Scotland chief executive Ian Aitken said: “This funding allocation represents clear support for getting more young people on their bikes more often.

“Bikeability Scotland helps give young people the skills and confidence they need to make journeys by bike to their school and around their communities.

“By gaining these skills, children are able to experience the enjoyment and feeling of freedom that cycling brings.

“With the addition of the Cycle Friendly Campus programme, young people will see a supportive environment for cycling continue beyond primary and secondary school all the way through their time at college and university.”

Tomorrow’s third annual Pedal on Parliament will see a mass bike ride involving some 4,000 cyclists from the Meadows to the Scottish Parliament via the Royal Mile at noon.

A record 14 MSPs and MPs are expected to take part, along with councillors and families of cyclists killed in recent years.

Organiser David Brennan said: “We’d like to see organisations across Scotland and the [Scottish] Government working together to create a proper road map for safer cycling and walking - not just a vague vision or an educational initiative to teach children how to ride in traffic.”