The two-year project is to be run by Sustrans Scotland and will 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 percent.
At a committee meeting last week, Bike Hub, the industry levy scheme, agreed to ‘pump prime’ the pilot project.
Sustrans Scotland will 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.
“We have already shown our ability to inspire girls to get on their bikes with projects such as Bike It, and the Scottish Government-funded Tackling the School Run programme.
“Although the new 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.”
Sustrans will work with four secondary schools and their feeder primary schools, in Perth and Edinburgh, starting in September.
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.
Phillip Darnton, chair of the Bike Hub committee said:
“Bike Hub is 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.
“Since the start of the Bike It project in England in 2004, the Bike Hub Committee has been working to ensure that cycling schemes in Wales, Scotland and Ireland are also properly represented and supported by the whole industry. Last year we were able to announce the launch of the first two Bike It posts in Wales."
Bike Hub’s support for the Sustrans Scotland project would probably be extended for a second year.
Darnton said: "It would be the committee’s expectation to continue increased support in 2010/11, depending on the level of contributions from the industry to the total levy scheme. This is a very dramatic opportunity to bring the industry’s support for the trade in Great Britain as a whole up to full speed."