Project set up


This chapter sets out the profile of the ten Free Bikes for Children pilot projects. It explores their broad approach and experiences of project set up including early learning from bike procurement and distribution.

For this interim report, as projects are at a very early stage in development, this chapter is based on the project proposals and early discussions with nine of the ten project leads (Pedal Up Shetland was new to the programme in late 2021 and was not involved at interim fieldwork stage) and partners. We understand that projects were designed to test different approaches, learn and adapt along the way. Projects will not necessarily have followed their exact plans set out in their project proposal, as they tested their ideas. Projects talked openly to us about the challenges they experienced and how they addressed these, and it is important to note that these challenges were also anticipated, recognised and planned for in robust, regular risk registers for each project which were discussed on a monthly basis.

The pilot projects

The Free Bikes for Children Pilot Scheme aims to test a range of methods of delivering free bikes to school age children who cannot afford them. It is not envisaged that there will be one preferred option, but rather a range of possible options for development. There is a strong focus on learning through the process, with regular monthly meetings with Transport Scotland, and opportunities for each project to reflect on learning and share this with the Project Board.

In June 2021, ten pilot proposals were submitted and considered by Transport Scotland. Eight of these proposals were taken forward. Six were launched in August 2021 and two shortly afterwards in September 2021. Two further proposals were developed and approved in autumn/winter 2021, taking the total funded projects to ten.

Locations of projects

Angus Re-Cycles

  • Angus
  • Dundee

Barnardo’s Gearing Up

  • Clackmannanshire
  • Falkirk

Bike for Good

  • Glasgow (south / south West)

Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies

  • Clackmannanshire

Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools

  • Scotland wide

Equality Cycles Cycling

  • Glasgow (north east)

Free Wheel North

  • Glasgow (north east)

I Bike

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Dumfries
  • West Lothian

Pedal Up Shetland

  • Shetland

Rock Up and Ride

  • Dundee
  • Falkirk
  • Fife
  • Glasgow
  • Highland
  • Scottish Borders
  • South Ayrshire
  • South Lanarkshire

Project approaches

Each of the pilot projects takes a different approach to delivering free bikes, this is summarised below:

Angus Re-Cycles

A hub approach, refurbishing 500 bikes for young people with care experience or deprivation in Angus and Dundee.

Barnardo’s Gearing Up

Bikes and cycle training for 30 young people with life challenges (working with Barnardo’s) in Forth Valley.

Bike for Good

A free bike subscription service for children in three schools in the south of Glasgow who are in receipt of free school meals.

Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies

Focusing on one school cluster in Clackmannanshire, providing 160 bikes for young people to own using an opt-out model.

Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools

A grant programme funding 37 secondary schools across Scotland to purchase bikes for pupils.

Equality Cycles Cycling

Hubs in deprived areas in north east Glasgow, offering 300 bikes for ownership to people in receipt of free school meals.

I Bike

Fleet and loan bikes at 3 primary and 4 secondary schools in 3 local authority areas.

Pedal Up Shetland

Bikes issued to 50 children without bikes at time of Bikeability Scotland training on library basis, to return when not needed.

(Bikeability Scotland cycle training is the national cycle training programme for school children, usually delivered in schools between P5 and S2.)

Rock Up and Ride

Four week fun and free opportunities at 8 sites in Scotland, with up to 800 bikes available, issued to children who complete the blocks.

Free Wheel North (Exited early 2022)

A safe cycling centre, suitable bikes and cycling opportunities for children with additional support needs in north east Glasgow.

Some projects include a range of approaches, to provide an opportunity to test different methods with the same target group. Broadly, the approaches include:

  • bike fleets
  • bike libraries, loans or free subscription services
  • ownership – with a condition the bike is returned when no longer needed
  • ownership – for the young person to keep
  • mixed – through providing grants to schools to agree their own approach

Proposed Approaches

Angus Re-Cycles - Loan and bike fleet/ library

Barnardo’s Gearing Up - Ownership, for young person to keep

Bike for Good Loan - Free bike subscription service

Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies Ownership - For young person to keep

Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools - Range of loan and ownership options

Equality Cycles Ownership - Must return when no longer needed

I Bike - Bike fleets in schools, loans through mini bike libraries and small scale exploration of ownership

Pedal Up Shetland - Bike library, issued at Bikeability stage, take home once completed, must return when no longer needed

Rock Up and Ride - Ownership at end of block of training sessions and in one location piloting an adaptive bike library.

Free Wheel North (Exited early 2022) - Bike library and cycling centres

Discussion with project leads highlighted advantages of each approach. Projects using an ownership model felt it supported young people to develop responsibility, a sense of ownership, and to feel trusted. Those using a loan model felt it encouraged ongoing engagement and longer term relationships with the children and young people. Two projects indicated that they selected an ownership approach as their organisation was not set up to manage a lending system. Another indicated that the ownership model was simpler for insurance purposes than a loan model.

For many of the projects, the idea for the pilots had emerged from existing work and understanding of need. Most lead partners already worked with young people, in communities and/ or in the cycling sector and felt well placed to deliver a free bikes pilot. Where possible, the partners used existing contacts, relationships and project infrastructure to develop the projects and built on learning from existing approaches.

Example: Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies

The lead partner within Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies, Forth Environment Link, already had a travel hub set up in a school cluster and is building on this for the pilot project. Building on and working alongside the hub helps to add value to the approach.

Example: Bike for Good

Bike for Good is piloting a bike subscription service for children and young people. It already ran a bike subscription service for adults, and had systems in place for managing this.

Example: Angus Re-Cycles

Angus Re-Cycles already had a service level agreement in place with Angus Council for recycling bikes. The infrastructure and model to deliver the project were already in place.

Example: I Bike

The lead partner within I Bike, Sustrans, already had the I Bike project established to encourage active travel within education. They were able to get set up quickly because they already had an existing schools programme in place, staff who knew the schools well, existing partners and connections.

Example: Cycling Friendly Secondary schools

Cycling Scotland had an existing programme distributing grants to fund cycling based activity in schools. They had previously received requests from schools for bikes for children who could not afford them. The existing fund could fund bikes for a school bike fleet, but not for individual use. The pilot therefore was designed to meet a need that had already been identified.


Each of the projects will run for between six and twelve months. Nine of the projects will have delivered their funded activity by August 2022, while the tenth project runs through to January 2023. Some projects found that their planned timescales for launching activity had been slightly delayed due to the pandemic and challenges launching outdoor activity in the late autumn and winter.

Project timescales

  • Angus Re-Cycles: Angus Cycle Hub - August 2021 - August 2022
  • Barnardo’s Gearing Up: Forth Environment Link - August 2021 - August 2022
  • Bike for Good: August 2021 - June 2022
  • Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies: Forth Environment Link - August 2021 - August 2022
  • Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools: Cycling Scotland - August 2021 - August 2022
  • Equality Cycles: St Paul’s Youth Forum - August 2021 – August 2022
  • I Bike: Sustrans - August 2021- August 2022
  • Pedal Up Shetland: Shetland Islands Council - March – August 2022
  • Rock Up and Ride: Scottish Cycling - August 2021 - July 2022
  • Free Wheel North (Exited early 2022): Inclusion Scotland - January 2022 - January 2023


Most projects were able to recruit the staff required. At the time of fieldwork, one project had a vacancy for the project manager role, but work was being shared across other staff. One project noted that they initially struggled to recruit a mechanic for the project and felt that there was high demand for bike mechanics across Scotland, which they felt was related to a general increase in cycling.

One project has been able to use the pilot funding to support volunteers to take on a paid role delivering the project. This has worked well, providing valuable upskilling and recognition for their work. Projects supported new staff with appropriate training including industry standard cycle training, health and safety, IT, first aid and leadership training. Project partners also played an important role in some projects in offering training and support around cycling and engaging with disadvantaged young people.

Partnership working

Each project has a lead organisation, and works in partnership with a wide range of organisations including cycling organisations, schools, community groups, bike providers and other third and public sector organisations.

Project partnerships

  • Angus Re-Cycles: Angus Cycle Hub  Angus Council, Dundee City Council, Urban Foresight and third sector partners
  • Barnardo’s Gearing Up: Forth Environment Link , Barnardo’s, Recyke-a-Bike
  • Bike for Good: Bike for Good Active Schools, targeted schools, Motion Forward Ltd
  • Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies: Forth Environment Link, Clackmannanshire Council, Active Clacks, Recyke-a-Bike and community groups
  • Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools Cycling Scotland: Adventure Aberdeen, CamGlen Bike Town, Velocity, Bike for Good, community groups
  • Equality Cycles   St Paul’s Youth Forum: Rosemount Development Trust, Royston Regeneration Strategy Group, Glasgow City Council, schools, Active Schools, Police Scotland
  • I Bike, Sustrans: Cycling Scotland, West Lothian Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Nestrans, Active Schools, Learning for Sustainability School Network
  • Pedal Up Shetland: Shetland Islands Council, Anchor Project, Ability Shetland, Shetland Bike Project, ZetTrans
  • Rock Up and Ride: Scottish Cycling, Local cycling clubs, local authorities, Active Schools, local schools, community groups, Frog Bikes
  • Free Wheel North (Exited early 2022): Inclusion Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, GM4X, Inclusive Countryide Access, Wee Cycle Cumbernauld, Scottish Cycling, Glasgow Life

Partnership is an important factor for most of the projects. Broadly, project leads and partners spoke positively about their experiences of working in partnership. Most project leads felt that the partners were helpful, receptive and happy to be involved in the project.

“Without their engagement, we couldn’t deliver it.” Project lead
“It’s been good. We’ve been pretty open and honest with each other and we’re able to share and learn. They’ve been pretty open, honest and receptive.” Project partner

Partners helped pilot projects to access their target group of young people and families. Most of the projects were working with local authorities and schools, to promote the project and generate referrals, providing knowledge about levels of need and disadvantage. Generally, project leads felt that schools, particularly primary schools, had engaged well. Delivering across a school cluster also worked well, particularly where secondary schools had an active travel hub. This helped to link primary and secondary school activity, and promoted active travel opportunities.

“The schools have been very proactive, they are on board and really promoting it.” Project lead

However, projects that aimed to work with schools noted several challenges. Firstly, they were limited in their ability to develop the necessary relationships, while schools were closed over summer. In addition, school timetables are often set well in advance. Working with schools often meant that project leads were dependent on schools and local authorities to share information about the free bike opportunity with eligible families. This responsibility often fell on one or two key individuals within the school. Project leads were conscious of the pressures on schools, and the way that the changing capacity of school staff could affect delivery.

Some projects worked closely with community-based organisations, including community groups, sports clubs and housing associations. This worked well in small localities, where community work was well developed and active. Staff in community partner organisations understood the needs of the target group and passed on information. As these organisations had strong relationships with families, they were well placed to encourage take up of the bikes and support the relationship between the project and the bike recipient.

“Working with them helps us guarantee that the bikes will be getting to the right people.” Project lead

Example: Equality Cycles

The Equality Cycles project involves joint work between St Paul’s Youth Forum – a youth focused programme based in the North East of Glasgow – and Rosemount Development Trust - a community based organisation which was formed by local residents in Royston who were concerned about the high level of unemployment and poverty in the area. Together the organisations have strong connections and links with local communities.

Working with partners has also helped to share and build skills within organisations. For example, one partner felt that the pilot had provided a positive experience for club coaches, who were delivering the activity. It gave them a chance to work with a different demographic, which they found quite fulfilling. It also helped them build confidence working with a different audience.

To help manage partnerships, some projects developed service level agreements. Although developing the agreements took time, the project leads hoped that it would lead to more effective delivery, as roles and responsibilities would be clearly set out.

A few project leads noted that agreements, responsibilities and finances between the key delivery partners (as set out in the application) needed to be carefully negotiated as the application process had been quick and there had not been time to discuss this in detail prior to submitting the application. Others noted that they did not have formal agreements or contracts. However, most projects had an understanding with partners about their needs, and maintained regular written communication.

Example: Rock Up and Ride

Scottish Cycling’s Rock Up and Ride pilot project involves delivering bikes through eight existing cycling facilities and cycling communities across Scotland – including cycling clubs, schools and community groups. In particular, the project involves close partnership working with existing or newly created cycling clubs at each location. There are partnership agreements in place with each club.

Some projects faced challenges when partners were not able to commit to the activity, or caused delays in progressing the project. Some projects found that working with local authorities took time, particularly as local authorities had other priorities around management of the Covid-19 pandemic. Where partners were not able to commit to the activity, projects have had to reassess their timescales and approaches, or focus in on developing the most critical partnerships first before expanding to work with others. Most projects continued to develop partnerships and most were able to overcome the difficulties and progress towards delivery of the project.

Funding awarded

The funding awarded to the pilot projects varied from £39,950 to £597,040. This range reflected the large variety in projects in terms of volume, approaches, target groups, number of sites and wider activities.

Table 1 - Project funding
Project Planned capital funding Planned resource funding Total funding
Angus Re-Cycles £107,000 £256,000 £363,000
Barnardo's Gearing Up £27,350 £14,980 £42,330
Bike for Good £128,304 £129,431 £257,735
Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies £38,000 £23,940 £61,940
Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools £150,000 £50,000 £200,000
Equality Cycles £272,252 £96,730 £368,982
I Bike £213,267 £14,000 £227,267
Pedal Up Shetland £30,950 £9,000 £39,950
Rock Up and Ride £464,000 £133,040 £597,040
Free Wheel North Exited early 2022 £75,000 £175,000 £250,000
Total £1,506,123 £902,121 £2,408,244

The balance at pilot proposal stage was roughly £1.5 million capital funding and just over £900,000 resource funding (this is based on the breakdown provided in pilot project proposals). Transport Scotland has been working with projects to understand these costs in detail and ensure that capital and resource funding is categorised consistently, across the projects so this balance may change slightly for proposed costs as a result of this work.

Learning and support through set up phase

Broadly, project leads were positive about the pilot process. Most felt that having the scope to run a pilot was helpful, and fitted in well with their own priorities. Projects welcomed the focus on learning. Some would value more discussion between the pilots, to share experiences and ensure effective links between pilots as appropriate.

“It feels very positive. The process to date has felt very positive, solutions based and flexible. What is so refreshing is that there is no right, or wrong answer and the wrong answers will result in the right outcome.” Project lead

A few project leads and partners commented that it might have been helpful to have collectively agreed eligibility criteria. This could have helped projects to get started more quickly, and ensure that the offer was consistent. A few felt slightly under pressure in terms of timescales for the pilot, and felt it was difficult not being able to plan over the longer term or offer long term security to staff members.

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