Pilot Study: Free Bike Access with Barnado's

One year ago, as part of their 100 Days pledge, the Scottish Government rolled out ten pilot projects to deliver free bike access for young people across Scotland. Since March 2022, Forth Environment Link has been working in partnership with Barnardo's to deliver free bikes and training sessions to tackle the transport poverty of young people through our Gearing Up programme.

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What is the Gearing Up project 

The Gearing Up programme follows a six-week framework to deliver a series of bike maintenance workshops, essential cycling skills and led cycle rides with a focus on physical and mental wellbeing.   

The first session offers the opportunity for the young people to select their desired second-hand bike from the refurbished Comrie Croft Bikes, creating a sense of ownership for each participant and encouraging a circular economy. These bikes are part of Comrie Croft's ex-hire fleet and were fully serviced prior to use by participants.

Mairi, who has been leading this project, is now in her third intake of participants. She has been delivering a series of cycle rides and maintenance workshops, one Away Day cycle ride covering a distance greater than the standard two-hour sessions and finishing off the programme with a game and feedback session. Mairi then delivers their bikes home with their brand-new helmet, lock, lights, pump and a puncture repair kit if needed. 

She says that working with Barnado's has been such a positive experience, as 'working with young people that are already in a relationship with someone that supports them (Barnado's) is very beneficial.'  

Fighting isolation with the Gearing Up project   

'It gave me the motivation to get out and about and socialise' - Feedback from the young people at Barnado's.

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Picture 2: Group 2 Away Day Cycle ride.

Providing access to bikes for young people is not only essential for their overall wellbeing but this programme has also offered the opportunity for young people in isolated communities to come together and develop friendships.  

Mairi says that she has seen some very positive behaviour between them. She says that a lot of the young people who engage in the programme are quite isolated and that the Gearing Up programme has enabled them to develop friendships and support one another,  especially in the Away Day ride, which can be physically demanding. 

Why is free bike access important for young people?   

Access to bikes offers an additional way of moving freely within our local areas which can be faster, cheaper and as mentioned above, creates social benefits.  

The minister of Transport, Graeme Dey MSP, stated that this pilot project has: 'already made a significant contribution towards us ensuring that affordability will no longer be a barrier to a child accessing a bike and enjoying cycling. More importantly, they will have the opportunity to develop a habit of getting around actively, and that is the kind of behaviour we want to see our young people pick up and take forward as one of their primary travel choices as they get older. […] Doing so will not only result in a more active and healthier population but can also contribute to tackling climate change as well.'  

What is next?

Mairi noticed a gap in the programme whereby the young people enjoyed using their bikes off-road. This prompted her to add a Mountain biking session for new and old participants at the Endura Lifecycle Trust Outdoor Trail Centre near Balfron, offering a fun and engaging way to break the ice between the young people. We are looking forward to helping develop this partnership between Barnardo's and Endura that will continue into the future.

Due to its success, the funding for this pilot project has been extended until March 2023.