Free bike pilots announced

Shanaze Reade and Graeme Dey - Free Bikes

The Scottish Government has announced the first six pilot projects selected to offer free bicycles for school age children who cannot afford one.

As part of a series of commitments delivered by the Scottish Government within its first 100 days, the new pilots will test their approaches across the next 12 months and will be fully evaluated. They will test delivery models in urban and rural locations, across primary and secondary schools ages and trial various procurement models. The pilots seek to include local bike shops and will explore opportunities to maximise benefits for the local supply chain, including recycling bikes and encouraging a circular economy approach.

The pilots will test a variety of ownership, loan and subscription models and undertake various methods of assessing need to ensure inclusion and accessibility. Pilots are linked to existing community networks across schools, charities, cycling clubs and active travel hubs – all helping to determine what the best models of local delivery could look like.

Further pilots will be announced in the coming months. Transport Scotland continues to explore opportunities for both an islands project and a specific adaptive bikes pilot. This would build on the provision of existing projects which already offer adaptive bikes for disabled children and young people.

Announcing the pilots, Transport Minister Graeme Dey visited St Paul’s Youth Forum in the North East of Glasgow alongside Shanaze Reade, Ambassador for Children and Young People for the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships. Working in partnership with the Rosemount Development Trust, the Equality Cycles project will support five schools and up to 300 children aged 8-16 years, to encourage active travel to school through the provision of free bikes, including adaptive bikes. The project in Blackhill intends to unlock skills, build confidence and tackle the climate emergency whilst improving physical and mental health.

Transport Minister Graeme Dey said:

“I’m blown away by how community groups, active travel and cycling partners have responded to our 100 day commitment. With support and funding from the Scottish Government, I’m pleased they will shortly offer free bike pilots to school aged children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.

“We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover when thinking about how best we can assess need, build in accessibility for all and ensure supply and delivery models which are sustainable for urban, rural and island communities across Scotland.

“That said, when we look at pilot projects already mobilised, it’s clear that the strength of ambition on display is immediately apparent. We’ll be looking at the evaluation very closely to see what’s working most effectively and inclusively to support future schemes.

“The benefits of providing greater access to bikes for children are obvious. It ensures equality of opportunity in building life skills, confidence, independence and embeds healthy and sustainable travel habits from a young age. Ensuring that more children can choose active travel including cycling is vital to help meet our world leading net zero targets.

“The Equality Cycles project between St Paul’s Youth Forum and the Rosemount Development Trust is a fantastic example of community collaboration to get more children on bikes using local networks. I look forward to seeing the success of this project and the other pilots, as we refine blueprints for effective local delivery and get more bikes to children who cannot afford them.”

Ben Raw, Project Coordinator at St Paul’s Youth Forum said:

“Through partnerships and innovative approaches like this, we can enable young people to access free and green transportation, helping tackle transport inequality that holds communities back. This allows young people to unlock their potential by accessing a range of services.

The power of cycling for everyday journeys such as to and from school, means that young people, regardless of where they are born, can access transportation that allows them to have good mental and physical health, leading happy and healthy lives.

We know that communities with the least, are feeling the effects of climate change across Scotland and the World. By offering young people access to bikes this project ‘Equality Cycles’ doesn’t just allow young people the opportunity to get around, but offers them a way to re-see and re-imagine their communities. By creating climate resilient neighbourhoods, local people, in one of the most economically deprived areas of the country, can not only to survive, but can thrive and flourish.”

Shanaze Reade, Ambassador for Children and Young People for the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships said:

“For me having access to a bike can open up so many possibilities and I’m delighted to see these pilot projects being rolled out, particularly in hard to reach communities. I have said before as ambassador for the 2023 Cycling Worlds that I want to help find opportunities for all children in Scotland to get access to a bike and this is a great first step.

“Growing up I had to overcome barriers to accessing a bike and I was lucky enough to be given one to race on, allowing me to experience all the benefits and freedom riding a bike can give.”

“The 2023 Cycling Worlds will be a great opportunity to inspire the next generation of world champions, but this will only work if all kids have a bike to ride. By shifting our way of thinking and providing kids with the chance to get on a bike, we can encourage them to take up the cycling as a sport, particularly with the spotlight on BMX after an incredible Tokyo Olympics.”


Five-time UCI BMX and Track Cycling World Champion, Shanaze Reade is the first in a series of ambassadors who will help drive forward the key policy drivers for the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow and across Scotland.

With a huge passion for mentoring disadvantaged children, Shanaze will use her role as the ambassador to make sure children and young people feel part of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, while also delving into the barriers that prevent or discourage them from riding bikes more often. More information is available on the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships website.

A brief summary of the pilot projects is listed below.

Equality Cycles with St Paul’s Youth Forum in North East Glasgow

St Paul’s Youth Forum will collaborate with Rosemount Development Trust to offer a pilot aiming to transform pupils’ journeys to and from school. They will work with five schools, and up to 300 children aged 8-16 years.

Young people will be empowered by owning bikes, which will aid them to tackle the climate emergency, access services and improve their physical and mental health. This transformative pilot will aid to unlock the skills and potential of the local area. Adaptive bikes can also be provided.

Scottish Cycling’s Rock Up & Ride programme

Scottish Cycling’s Rock Up & Ride programme is a series of fun, free and easy to access sessions aimed at children aged 7-14 years, which link directly with a cycling club, aimed at delivering a long-term increase in cycling activity and consequently behavioural change.

By giving the participant something fun to do with their bike, and a means of developing their skills and confidence, they will see greater value in the bike and the independence it can give them. This will greatly increase the likelihood of that participant using the bike for everyday journeys such as cycling to school, the shops or other short journeys.

The Rock Up & Ride programme will be delivered at eight identified pilot sites, which will enable learning from each of the sites and, in particular, assess the impact across different disciplines of cycling, different club models, school/community sites and urban/rural locations. The facilities that will be included within the pilot will range from pump tracks and mountain bike trails to skills areas and a closed road circuit, including three disability hubs, ensuring a range of opportunities are provided. Adaptive bikes are also available.

Angus Cycle Hub

The Cycle Hub will pilot a central bike distribution centre for the Angus and Dundee areas with regional support being provided by dedicated development workers and bicycle mechanics. The pilot aims to support up to 1000 children aged 4-16 years.

Angus Cycle Hub will provide free refurbished bicycles, helmets and accessories to young people aged 4-16 via partner agency referrals. The pilot will provide specialist support for young people and families in Angus and Dundee to engage with cycling, training, active travel, recycling and health and wellbeing opportunities. 

The pilot will use and tie into existing services and infrastructure already being provided by Angus Cycle Hub to develop a full-scale model that could be rolled out in other local authority areas. Children will be able to swap bikes as they outgrow current one.

Barnardos in Forth Valley Gearing Up

Forth Environment Link working in partnership with Barnardos and operating across Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire, Barnardos will refer up to 30 young people, aged 10-16 years, to FEL. The proposal will target those who have experienced and are dealing with life challenges and ensure access to bikes reaches some of the most vulnerable young people in Scotland.

FEL will work in partnership with Barnardos to provide ‘Bike Life Experiences’ for each young person. This will include a bike, events and activities programme alongside supporting wrap around care; for instance, essential skills training, led rides, maintenance workshops and safe route planning. There will be a mix of procured and recycled bikes.

The proposal will deliver a series of bike maintenance workshops, led rides and cycle safety lessons, all with a physical and mental wellbeing focus. Sessions will be delivered with small groups of 6-8 young people to ensure maximum support is provided. Activities will be flexible and tailored to suit each individual participating. Activities will also introduce healthy eating, encouraging social development and a sense of community through food whilst ensuring young people are provided with nutritious food during the day as FEL recognises that for many, access to food is of an equal barrier to cycling and in many instances a barrier to cycling.

Cycling Scotland’s Cycling Friendly network

The criteria for Cycling Friendly secondary schools development grant funding will be extended to prioritise providing bikes for young people aged 12-16 years, who do not have access to one due to affordability. This pilot plans to deliver through 20 schools nationally, with an average 20 bikes per school.

Bikes, including adaptive bikes, would be for personal use to enable independent travel to/from and outside school. Access to support, training and maintenance would also be provided with tailored support accessed through Cycling Friendly network of delivery partners and community organisations.

Sustrans’ I Bike with West Lothian, Dumfries and Galloway, and Aberdeenshire Councils

Building on the existing I Bike schools programme, Sustrans aim to make access to bikes more equitable by providing bikes to children without them and prioritising those who potentially cannot afford them. This pilot aims to support approximately 700 children aged 9-14 years. This will be trialled in three ways:

  • A fleet of bikes for each school: this will enable all participants in cycling activities to have the same bike, removing barriers and stigma for those who do not have access to a bike
  • Bike libraries for long term bike loans; a pool of bikes, including adaptive bikes will be loaned out to pupils who don’t have access to one. This will extend the access to bikes beyond the sessions at school and enable pupils to use them at home and for journeys to/from school. The libraries will also enable children to change up to larger bikes as they grow
  • Ownership: explore options for pupils to be given ownership of a bike – either through provision of their loan bike after a given period or using a voucher to buy a new bike

2023 UCI Cycling World Championships

The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships is a brand-new event that will see the world’s greatest riders come together in Glasgow and across Scotland to compete at the highest level across thirteen disciplines

Every year, each individual cycling world championships is hosted/held in different locations around the world. In 2023, 13 of these individual world championships will be brought together by one great host. This new combined event format will take place every four years, one year ahead of the Olympics.

The 2023 Cycling Worlds will be about celebrating the power of the bike and getting more people riding a bike whatever their age or motivation - leisure, sport or as a mode of transport. 

The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships is more than just an event. It will accelerate the country’s key policy objectives to deliver wider benefits around Scotland from now to 2027 and beyond.

Published 17 Aug 2021 Tags