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Bike It Project Review 2010

Giving children the skills and confidence to travel by bike

Once again, Sustrans had a phenomenally successful year increasing the levels of children cycling to school. As you will read inside, the number of children cycling to Sustrans’ Bike It schools has doubled, with one in four pupils cycling to school at least once every week and one in ten pupils cycling every day. At Bike It schools, levels of car use on the school journey have fallen by one quarter. These figures are in stark comparison to the fact that just 2% of children in the UK usually cycle to school, even though half of them would like to. In March 2010, Sustrans published its call to action, More Haste, Less Speed, which includes giving every child and young person the knowledge, skills and confidence to establish the habit of travel by foot and bike early in life. We have called for a doubling in the proportion of local journeys made on foot, by bicycle and on public transport from two out of five to four out of five. Bike It shows that this scale of change is possible when supported with adequate investment and progressive joined-up thinking.

Foreword from Sustrans 2

What is more, and this is critical at a time when government budgets are being squeezed so hard, Sustrans’ Bike It offers fantastic value for money. We know that children who cycle to school are much more likely to be physically active than their peers – reducing the chance of children becoming obese and developing diabetes. We know that Bike It reduces traffic congestion and offers a cheaper

alternative to expensive school transport in certain areas. And by promoting safe cycling, Bike It can reduce the risk of accidental injury. One thousand Bike It officers, working with 12,000 schools each year would cost, just £1 per year for every UK resident. Sustrans has always focused its efforts on delivering practical projects and persuading local communities to take action themselves. We strive to coordinate investment in cycling and walking infrastructure with all our behaviour change projects, including Bike It. Our work in Luton, featured on page 14, is an excellent example of what can be achieved when these projects come together. Year after year, surveys show that our funding partners are delighted with the enthusiasm and professionalism of Sustrans staff. This year’s London Transport Awards gave the accolade of ‘Best Cycling Improvement’ to the Bike It project in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. I would like to congratulate James Scott of Sustrans and Sam Margolis from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on their bold partnership in what must be one of the most challenging locations in which to promote cycling to school. Their achievements, and those of every Bike It officer, are only possible with the fantastic support they receive from teachers, parents, cycle trainers and local bike shops. We are enormously grateful to them and to our funders. I hope you agree that this review makes compelling reading, and if you don’t currently have a Bike It officer working in your area, please do get in touch with me.

Malcolm Shepherd Chief Executive, Sustrans

Sustrans+ If you like the sound of what’s in this review and you want to get Bike It up and running in your area, turn to page 18 for details of where to start, or simply drop us a line at


Our partners

The parent

I just wanted to thank you for teaching my son to ride a bike, I tried, but I was hopeless. Before you had to crowbar him away from the computer, but now there’s no stopping him when it comes to his bike, and you can't imagine how proud I am when he says that cycling is now his hobby.

Dave Sims, parent at Sundon Park Juniors, Luton

The school

Sustrans has been crucial in developing and sustaining cycling in our school, helping to reduce car journeys and congestion during the school run. With the help of our Bike It officer cycling has become a valued and enjoyable element of our school curriculum. Mark Welch, Headteacher, Warden Hill Junior School, Luton


The local authority

Sustrans’ work is a valuable addition to the Council’s existing Road Safety programme. Increasing levels of cycling in the city, particularly for schools, is one of the main aims of our Sustainable Travel City project and Bike It is central to helping us to achieve this. Cheryl Owen, Travel Planning Officer at Cardiff Council

The bicycle industry

The local health partnership

The Bicycle Association has quite a few things to be proud of, but undoubtedly the most rewarding is to see the effect that the voluntary donations to our Bike Hub Fund have had upon the burgeoning success of Bike It. ‘From small acorns, mighty oak trees grow’ and this is not just true of the success that Bike It is having upon cycling’s increase in schools right now, but also the long term personal and societal benefits that cycling brings with it.

Philip Taylor, President of the Bicycle Association

This morning was truly uplifting. Both the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher expressed how fantastic they thought Bike It was during the assembly. I am now seeing real evidence on the ground of children regularly cycling to school on the Isle of Dogs. Our aim of more children regularly cycling to school in order to boost their health is well on the way to being met. Sam Margolis, Joint Active Travel Officer, London Borough of Tower Hamlets and NHS Tower Hamlets

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What is Bike It?

Sustrans works directly with schools who want to increase levels of cycling. We do this by helping schools to make the case for cycling in their school travel plans, supporting cycling champions in schools and demonstrating that cycling is a popular choice amongst children and their parents. Our aim is to create a cycling culture in the school which continues long after the Bike It officer has left.


Graham Pearl is Sustrans’ Bike It officer in Southend

The project also adds to local investment in cycle routes, bike sheds and cycle training by involving pupils, teachers and parents and enabling them to take the small steps which are necessary to make a real difference. Bike It officers work with schools by: • explaining the benefits of cycling • contributing to classroom work • addressing concerns about safety and liability with the help of the local authority and other partners • sharing good practice with school management teams • organising practical cycling activities • generating positive publicity. Where possible, we work with clusters of enthusiastic schools in areas which are particularly suited to cycling and where we can link the efforts of secondary schools and their feeder primary schools. Each Bike It officer works with at least 12 schools over the course of an academic year. Some schools keep Bike It for a second year if they are not quite ready to go it alone or still have the potential to increase cycling levels further. Sustrans’ Bike It officers meet regularly to share ideas and swap skills so that whilst each of them plays to their own strengths when working with schools, they all benefit from the collective experience of the wider team. As part of the wider Sustrans team, Bike It officers also benefit from Sustrans’ long experience of delivering a wide range of successful projects to increase levels of walking and cycling both to school and other everyday destinations. In combination, this helps keep the Sustrans Bike It message fresh, engaging and relevant to young people. In addition we provide staff with full training in first aid, risk assessment, cycle safety instruction, outdoor activities and child protection.

What did you do before joining Sustrans? I worked for 20 years for a large manufacturing company as the logistics department manager and later as the health and safety officer. I have also been a school governor and helped run a children’s cycling club for many years. What do you enjoy about the job? Helping children and parents make a positive change which enriches their lives. It sounds grand but it is in fact very simple. In addition to all the health and environmental benefits, cycling is fundamentally liberating, empowering and fun. Who are you working with? My main partner is the Cycling Southend team at the Borough Council. I also work with the Healthy Schools Advisor and local bike shops. Capital Shopping Centres have sponsored a scheme across the Thames Gateway aimed at increasing the uptake of Bikeability training in Bike It schools. What has been your most successful activity? A summer incentive scheme which involved assemblies and classroom sessions leading to prizes. The bike sheds overflowed and in some schools over a third of pupils cycled in. I clocked up a lot of bike miles delivering additional stocks of prizes, which gave me lots of unexpected opportunities to meet pupils and their parents. Best moment so far? A girl aged about nine who arrived on her bike with stabilisers. She usually comes to school with her mum in a wheel chair because she can’t walk all the way from home. She was unfazed by the whole thing but her mum and classmates were bursting with pride. That’s the power our project has to inspire and motivate.


Who do we work with? Sustrans works closely with schools, parents, local authorities, bike shops and funders to deliver Bike It. But there are many other organisations that play their part and Sustrans’ Bike It officers frequently coordinate much of this work within the school.


A BMX display team gives pupils a treat at Staple Hill Primary in Bristol.

Bike It meets two of the five aims of Every Child Matters: staying safe and being healthy. Our principal contacts in schools are our School Champions who help us coordinate daily activities and circulate publicity material to other staff and parents. These champions are often teachers who are keen cyclists themselves but we also work with staff taking a lead on school sports, healthy schools and sustainable schools activities. As pressure comes to bear on school transport budgets, cycling is becoming an important transport option for students making longer journeys of up to five miles. Several Bike It staff now work with staff in secondary schools who are responsible for coordinating 14-19 Agenda and Diploma programmes. Local authorities benefit from Sustrans’ school cycling work in many ways. As schools develop their cycle to school policies, we ensure that they update targets in their School Travel Plans. Progression through our School Mark accreditation scheme is linked to evidence of marked increases in cycling, thereby delivering outcomes for School Travel Advisors and Healthy Schools officers. Bike It staff also work closely with road safety teams and private training providers to promote take up of Bikeability (accredited on-road cycle training). We have also attracted additional funding from government, the Big Lottery Fund and the private sector for new cycle storage and improved walking and cycling routes. The Luton case study on page 14 is a good example of how Bike It supports investment in new cycling infrastructure.

All but two of the 18 Cycling Demonstration Towns and City have Bike It staff in place. Marketing and communications teams benefit from their practical expertise, personal contacts and positive local media stories. Recently published research from five of the original six Cycling Demonstration Towns has shown that there has been a 126% increase in regular cycling levels at Sustrans’ Bike It schools. The cycle industry has funded Bike It since its inception and we continue to work closely with local cycle retailers. Without their contribution to the Bike Hub fund, Bike It would probably not exist. Members of the Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders have provided prizes, run Dr Bike sessions in schools, and publicised local Bike It projects to their customers. As a charity, Sustrans is well placed to work with commercial partners. Two examples of successful partnerships are with Lush whose staff have helped deliver Beauty and the Bike sessions with girls; and Capital Shopping Centres who have supported Bike It projects close to the MetroCentre in Gateshead and Lakeside in Thurrock.

Sustrans+ Want to hook up with your local Bike It officer? We promise it’ll be the start of a beautiful relationship. Drop us a line and we’ll put you in touch:


Bike It works

50% 10% 26% of children at Bike It schools told us that they wanted to cycle to school.

of children told us that they now cycle to school every day, compared to 3% before Bike It.

In London Results have echoed trends seen in England and Wales. The share of pupils cycling every day increased from 4% to 8% whilst the proportion cycling at least once a week grew from 12% to 22%.

of children told us that they now cycle to school at least once a week, compared to 13% before Bike It.

In Wales The proportion of regular cyclists increased from 13% to 39% and pupils coming by car everyday fell from 38% to 34%.

Calculating the benefits In the school year 2008/09, Sustrans conducted hands-up surveys of pupils at schools where Bike It was being introduced for the first time. In total, Sustrans surveyed around 20,000 pupils at 114 Primary and nine Secondary schools in England (excluding schools surveyed in London and in Wales). Before the project began, Sustrans asked the pupils how often they cycled, walked or were driven to school and how they would prefer to travel to school. Sustrans then asked the same questions after Bike It had been delivered. Regular bike shed counts were also conducted throughout the academic year. For more information about Sustrans’ Bike It surveys please refer to the Bike It Technical Report:


The percentage of children that told us that they never cycle to school dropped from 73% to


94% 22% of headteachers felt that Bike It had helped pupils become more physically active.

after Bike It.

of children told us that they come to school by car every day, compared to 29% before Bike It.

Increase in frequency of children cycling to school at Bike It schools: 2008-09

80 70

% of pupils

60 50 40 30


Before Bike It After Bike It


20 10 0

3 Never


Every day



Once or twice a week



Once or twice each term

Source: Sustrans, 2009 Note: Data based on hands-up surveys of around 20,000 pupils, asking the question “Do you cycle to school?�



Once or twice each year


Don’t just take our word for it


Headteachers Headteachers (and their nominated school champions) have given Sustrans a resounding thumbs-up after we asked them about the impact of Bike It. Of the 146 schools that responded: • 71% said that the number of children being driven by car had reduced since Sustrans had started working with their school • 99% felt that cycling levels had increased • 94% felt that Bike It had helped pupils become more physically active • 74% said Bike It had helped improve school travel plan quality and delivery • 59% believed that Bike It had helped increase engagement with parents • When asked if they would recommend Bike It to other schools, 99% said ‘Yes’ • The most important factors for increasing cycling were listed as cycle storage, promotional events, cycle training and information and advice from Bike It staff. Bike rides, parents’ involvement, safety improvements and local authority information were rated less important.

Local funders Feedback from local authorities and primary care trusts has been extremely positive with particular praise for the way in which Sustrans’ staff have inspired higher cycling levels amongst children; helped provide popular events and activities for the local community; given council officers more confidence to promote cycling to school; generated good publicity for the council’s work; and established local examples of good practice.

The comments below were returned anonomously from local authorities and primary care trusts:

Bike It has a played a huge role in developing a new culture of cycling in the local authority. Some of the old myths about cycling have been broken down and cycling is now becoming the norm.

Our Bike It officer is an absolute dynamo. Ever enthusiastic, she describes her role as “the best job in the world”. It is clear that the programme is a unifying, motivating force in schools the like of which few other initiatives come close.


In its Carbon Management Strategy for the School Sector, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has set schools the target of reducing travel emission levels by 34% based on 2008 levels, with particular emphasis on more walking and cycling. What’s more, in his 2010 annual report, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, has called for an eight-fold increase in cycling. His ambition is backed up by the recently published Active Travel Strategy which calls on local partnerships to make walking and cycling the preferred means of travel for the 21st Century.

Successful approaches will entail taking part in national and local programmes… for example Sustrans’ Bike It programme has worked directly with over 700 schools, improving children’s skills and confidence and doubling levels of cycling. A Carbon Management Strategy for the School Sector, Dept for Children, Schools and Families


Case studies

Warden Hill Junior School, Luton When Bike It officer Richard Noon started working with Warden Hill Junior School in Luton in September 2008 there was no cycle storage and none of the pupils cycled to school. Bikes were simply toys, most of them parked up in the garage or garden shed. Eighteen months on, the school has a brand new cycle shelter and fifty pupils cycle to school on a regular basis. Headteacher Mark Welch explains why the school signed up to Bike It; “Warden Hill Junior School was keen to become involved with Sustrans to help our children become safe and confident young cyclists as well as developing independence, environmental awareness and health

related skills. Cycling has helped support all these, and other, important areas of personal development.” Since then, three teachers have become cycling champions and help Richard to run events at the school. One of them has been trained by British Cycling to help deliver Go Ride skills sessions and the school offers Bikeability cycle training to all Year 5 and 6 children through Luton Borough Council. Once additional cycle parking is completed as part of its building programme, the school plans to promote cycling to younger pupils with the cycling equivalent of the walking bus. The school is one of the first to reach bronze level of Sustrans’ School Mark scheme which aims to sustain progress once Bike It officers move on.

Children from Warden Hill Juniors and Icknield High School met up on a bike ride to celebrate the opening of a new link, created as part of Sustrans’ programme of work to link schools to their local communities and the National Cycle Network.


Warden Hill also has a new link to the National Cycle Network which passes through the town centre, and Sustrans’ Active Travel project is providing training and refurbished bicycles to those most in need. Sustrans is also working with the local secondary school Icknield High to provide continuity for the cyclists of Warden Hill Juniors. In time, we hope to work with local residents to reclaim some of their streets as play space and improve safe access to local children’s centres and play areas. The upward trend in cycling at Warden Hill Junior School has been repeated at other Bike It schools in Luton, where levels of regular cycling have more than doubled over the past three years. It’s therefore no coincidence that usage of the National Cycle Network in the area has doubled in just five years.

Bike It in Belfast

In her first year of Bike It, Jill McDonald has worked with over 3,000 children. The first year of Sustrans’ work in Belfast was wholly funded by the cycle industry’s Bike Hub fund and, like all Bike It officers, Jill has drawn on the support of local bike traders. Bikedock has offered discounts to families at Bike It schools and donated staff time to support Jill with some of her ‘I love my bike’ activities. Many of Jill’s schools are in deprived areas and here the focus is often on repairing bikes and teaching bike maintenance skills. For example, over 900 young people have learned how to fix a puncture. As Jill explains, “The commercial benefits aren’t overt, but those dealers who get it, can see the bigger picture...It’s great to see the bike shop staff getting stuck in. The kids appreciate it too.”

St James’ Whiteabbey School, Belfast


Where next? In 2010 Sustrans will work with schools in the following locations.


Funding from the Department for Transport (via Cycling England), the cycle industry (via the Bike Hub fund), the Big Lottery Fund, Welsh Assembly Government and Transport for London enabled us to expand our Bike It team and bring a positive cycling experience to 130,000 children. Most encouraging, has been the growth in partnership funding between local authorities and primary care trusts – Cornwall, Northumberland, Dorset and Westminster being the most recent examples. These partners recognise Sustrans as a charity that delivers positive outcomes for local transport plans, school travel and physical activity strategies. In Scotland, Bike Hub funding has allowed us to pilot a programme called I Bike. The project is currently being delivered in Edinburgh and Perth. Two dedicated cycling officers have begun working intensively with secondary schools and their feeder primary schools, in partnership with their local authorities.

Looking forward, Sustrans has called for a doubling in the proportion of local journeys made on foot, by bicycle and on public transport by 2020 – bringing us into line with many of our continental neighbours. To do this we must give every child and young person the knowledge, skills and confidence to establish the habit of travel by foot and bike early in life. Sustrans’ Bike It project is a proven means of helping to make it happen. In March 2010, we offered all Bike It schools the chance to race each other in a nationwide Virtual Bike Race. The race was a huge success – 264 Bike It schools took part in the four week race, with an average of one in eight of their pupils cycling to school each day. The net result of all this was nearly 288,000 school cycling journeys.

Sustrans+ To find out exactly where Bike It is working right now visit the Sustrans website:

I Bike aims to tackle decreasing levels of cycling as pupils move from primary to secondary school. Girls too are a key focus for I Bike and we hope this work will encourage more girls to take to two wheels.

Sustaining the results We launched the Sustrans School Mark scheme in September 2009. By working towards structured Bronze, Silver and Gold awards, this support framework helps ensure project outcomes continue long after a school’s Bike It officer moves

on. Each school is asked to review the activities which promote sustainable travel and demonstrate an ongoing increase in cycling. By May 2010, around 500 schools had signed up for the scheme and over 100 schools had achieved the Bronze award.


Make your move If you like the sound of Sustrans’ Bike It and think that schools in your area could benefit please get in touch with Sustrans: Register your interest at Write to: Sustrans School Travel, Sustrans, 2 Cathedral Square, Bristol BS1 5DD Call Sustrans School Travel on 0117 915 0100


Schools If you would like a Bike It officer to work with your school then visit and complete the on-line survey. It’s only by registering your interest that we can make the case for more funding. Encourage your local authority school travel adviser to approach Sustrans and register their interest too. Bike It can help organise Bikeability cycle training at your school. To find out about Bikeability visit: Parents, teachers or school governors If you would like Bike It to work with your child’s school then contact a member of staff at the school and ask them to complete the survey listed above. If you would like to become a champion for walking or cycling at your school please contact the Sustrans School Travel team via

Sustrans is the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity. Our vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. We work on practical, innovative solutions to the transport challenges facing us all. If you think what we do sounds sensible, we urgently need people like you to help us do more. By giving from £5 a month you’ll start to make a difference. Without this financial support, Sustrans and projects such as Bike It would probably not exist. To find out more about Sustrans or to become a Sustrans Supporter please visit or call 0845 113 00 65. Sustrans’ Bike It is generously supported by:

Local authority If you want Bike It to work with schools in your area, then write to Sustrans to register your interest. Write to: Sustrans School Travel, Sustrans, 2 Cathedral Square, Bristol BS1 5DD. Please also encourage enthusiastic schools to complete the online survey too. Primary care trust If you want Bike It to help you deliver your local physical activity and child obesity strategies, please discuss this with your local authority school travel adviser and write to Sustrans. Bicycle trade If you have contributed to the Bike Hub fund, thank you for your support. If you want to see the project extended, please contact the Bicycle Association or Association of Cycle Traders. If your business is located where Bike It is already active, please contact the local Bike It officer to see how you can get involved. Their details can be found at

and many local authorities and primary care trusts. Head Office: Sustrans, 2 Cathedral Square, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5DD Photography: Sustrans staff, Pete Le May, Keith Waters (Mirror) Design: Print: printed on Revive 100 Offset. This is an FSC certified paper made using 100% post-consumer waste. ISSN 1755-3415 (Print) ISSN 1755-3423 (Online) ©Sustrans. May 2010 Registered Charity No. 326550 (England and Wales) SC039263 (Scotland) VAT Registration No. 416740656


Get them thinking in the right direction.

Sustrans is the UK's leading sustainable transport charity. Our vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. We are the charity working with children in schools, with families at home, with employers and with whole communities to enable people to travel much more by foot, bike and public transport. Sustrans is a doing charity working with many partners to bring about real change. Our thousands of supporters have enabled us to change our world one mile at a time. You can too. Join the movement today at

Bike It Review 2010  

Bike It was seed-funded by the bike industry levy fund, Bike Hub. It is run by Sustrans.

Bike It Review 2010  

Bike It was seed-funded by the bike industry levy fund, Bike Hub. It is run by Sustrans.