Make cycling a ‘habit’ by getting more kids cycling to school, that’s the aim of the new £400k Sustrans initiative to create 200 ‘Cycle Champions’ a year over the next ten years

Sustrans wants to create school-based cycle advocates

Sustrans recognises it’s only by influencing youngsters to cycle more that cycle usage will grow in the future. Indeed, the present level of cycle usage might drop if Britain’s car culture is allowed to spread unhindered.

Sustrans wants to reduce the number of children taken to school in parental taxis, and increase the number of children cycling, and walking, to school. In a presentation at yesterday’s AGM of the BAGB, Paul Osborne of Sustrans, the York-based safe routes to school project manager, said 50 percent of children in Denmark cycle to school.

Here there are only 100 000 school cyclists, a 1 percent drop in the ocean. Yet some schools are showing that reversing the trend is possible. At the Kesgrave school in Ipswich, pro-cycling initiatives were put in place that saw cycle usage sky-rocket: 71 percent of Kesgrave kids now cycle to school.

This was achieved thanks to individuals at the school making sure pro-cycling policies were implemented correctly. And taking a lead from this example, Sustrans wants to create more of these school ‘cycling champions’. They need to be intimately connected to their schools and able to get cycling on the management agenda. Sustrans wants to create an infrastructure to nurture and support these ‘champions’. This infrastructure would include training courses, literature, a national conference, and an awards scheme for the best champions in the UK. The champions would be funded to the tune of £2000 per school.

2000 out of 4000 Secondary schools would be targetted. The goal would be to increase the number of kids cycling to school to 1.2m, a hugely ambitious target.

Sustrans aims to spend £400 000 on setting up the ten year campaign. Seed funding of £70 000 has been secured from the lottery Community Fund and Sustrans supporters are currently being mailed to provide a further £50 000. Trusts would contribute a likely £80 000.

Sustrans would like £200 000 to come from the bicycle industry. Such support would enable Sustrans to apply for matched funding from grant-awarding government schemes, as happened with the £1m the industry raised via the bike levy three years ago.

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