Bike it! is a national pilot cycling scheme which aims to encourage schoolchildren to take to two wheels. The scheme is co-ordinated by Sustrans and co-funded by the Department for Transport and the British bicycle industry via the Bike Hub levy.
Bike It! officers - based in Derby, York, Manchester and Bristol - organise a wide range of events and activities to encourage schoolchildren to cycle.
As well as receiving accredited on- and off-road cycle training, the 40 cherry-picked schools also get advice on secure cycle storage, cycle paths and traffic calming measures.
Vicki Hill, the Bike it! co-ordinator for York, said: “Children love to cycle and our aim is to harness that enthusiasm and develop it so that children can become safe and responsible cyclists at an early age. Children who have been taught to cycle safely have a much better developed road sense."
Bella Stewart, Travel Plan Co-ordinator at Derby City Council is delighted with the impact the Bike It! project has had at six of the city’s schools:
“Without Bike It!, we couldn't have given hundreds of young people the full support and encouragement that they need. More children are already cycling as a result of this project.”
The project - which could be rolled out to many more schools around the UK - has now been running for more than a year and Sustrans has released details of how well the scheme has done in its first 12 months.
Cycling levels at the 40 Bike It! supported schools have quadrupled, rising from an average of two percent of pupils cycling to school to eight percent. Before the scheme was started, none of the 40 schools had ten percent of pupils cycling to school. By June this year, half of the schools said between 20-30 percent of pupils were now cycling to and from school. At North Road School in Bristol, a whopping 40 percent of pupils now cycle to school.
In 29 of the Bike It! schools, 38 percent of the 9-to-12 year old cycle-to-schoolers had started to cycle in the last twelve months. One third of these pupils were previously taken to school by car.
Peter Foss-Clark, the School Travel Plan Coordinator for Ashton Gate primary School in Bristol said there are now three times more children cycling to school than before Bike It!, and there's a growing enthusiasm for cycling. Bristol Bike It! officer Katherine Rooney had had "a brilliant impact on our school," said Foss-Clark.
"Many people have contributed to [our school's] successes, but Katherine has been the catalyst for all of them. All these schemes have raised the profile of the school with the local community, enhancing our reputation as a result."
Paul Osborne, Sustrans’ Safe Routes to Schools director, said:
“It is vital that we give young people the opportunity to travel in ways, which are healthy, safe and convenient for them. There's an enormous potential for increasing cycling levels in this country. The Bike It! schools are shining examples of what can be achieved."
Bike It! officers are paid for via Bike Hub, a levy scheme created by the Bicycle Association of GB and the Association of Cycle Traders.
The companies directly contributing to Bike Hub are Bohle, Booost, Brompton, Clarks Cables, Cyclemotion, Fisher Outdoor Leisure, Giant, Hot Wheels, Ideal, Kinetics, Paligap (Kona), Madison, Mission, Moore Large, Moulton, Orbit, Pashley, Professional Cycle Marketing, Raleigh, Silverfish, Specialized, Trek, Universal, Weldtite and Zyro.
Consumers who buy bikes or bits from shops supplied by any of these suppliers contribute to the Bike Hub fund, albeit indirectly. Each company pays into the fund in its own way, some recouping part of the cost from retailers, others paying on their behalf.
Notable by its absence from the Bike Hub scheme is Halfords.
However, contributions have been received from Aylesbury Training Group, BikeBiz.com, Butterworth Spengler Insurance, Company of Cyclists, Bob Chicken Snr., Nick Harvey of Bike Week, web design agency SiWIS and Velovision magazine.
Vicki Hill, Bike IT! co-ordinator for York, is a fan of the Bike Hub levy. She told BikeBiz.com: "Can you please stress how thankful we are to bicycle companies and bike shops? Without their support this important scheme wouldn't be here today."