Targeting children and young people


This chapter explores the pilot project approaches to identifying children and young people who cannot afford a bike, and ensuring delivery focuses on this group.

Target groups

The projects set their target group themselves, within the parameters of a pilot for children who cannot afford a bike. Pilots developed different ways of identifying and targeting children and young people who could not afford a bike. This included:

  •  focusing on areas of high deprivation based on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)
  • focusing on children eligible for free school meals or universal credit
  • focusing on children who may have difficulties affording a bike due to life challenges, experience of care, rural deprivation or additional support needs
  • focusing on children identified as needing a bike for Bikeability training
  • focusing on children identified as in need of support through existing systems such as partner holiday club programmes

Project: Target group profiles

  • Angus Re-Cycles : Care experience, low income, SIMD, rural deprivation, 3-17
  • Barnardo’s Gearing Up: Life challenges, working with Barnardo’s 10-16
  • Bike for Good: Low income or eligible for free school meals, P6-S2
  • Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies: Identified working through schools on opt-out basis, P7+
  • Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools: SIMD deciles 1-5, and adaptive bikes, school age S1-S6
  • Equality Cycles: SIMD areas, 8-18
  • I Bike: Eligible for free school meals and parent confirming no access to bike, school age P5+
  • Pedal Up Shetland: Identified as needing a bike for Bikeability training, 5-17, Focus on P5-7
  • Rock Up and Ride: Entitled to free school meals (excluding universal primary school meals) and/ or school clothing grant
  • One site a focused disability hub, and adaptive bikes at two other sites as required, 7-14
  • Free Wheel North (Exited early 2022) Young people requiring adaptive bikes, focus on deprived areas, 0-18

As well as set criteria, some projects also aimed to take a holistic approach, and were keen that young people in need did not miss out because they did not qualify for free school meals, or live in a particular locality. For example, some projects accepted referrals from school staff or community partners who identified young people based on their personal knowledge of young people and their families.

One project has chosen an ‘opt out’ model. This pilot is open to any P7 pupil in the target cluster. And another, which is offering bikes on loan, provides enough bikes for a whole class to use at a time. Both projects chose this model to make it as easy as possible for young people who need bikes to access them, with minimal stigma attached to the opportunity.

The age range targeted varied significantly between projects. Some projects selected the age of delivering the bike to the child to fit with wider activities, including school-based Bikeability training or transition from primary to secondary school. Some focused on a wider age range, including secondary school of all ages, in recognition that cycling can drop off as young people get to secondary school. A few included younger children in early primary school.

In a few cases, the age range was designed to match bike sizes, for example focusing on upper primary age children to ensure that bikes can last longer as they grow up. In some cases projects were working out how to balance the need for a bike at P5 stage for Bikeability, and the good links with this programme, with the likelihood that children may quickly grow out of a bike offered at that stage.

Approaches to reaching the target group

Projects used a wide range of approaches to reaching target children, young people and families. This included:

  • asking schools to take the lead on identifying children in need of a free bike
  • issuing information to targeted families through schools
  • working closely with partners connected to schools such as Active Schools
  • identifying eligible young people through partners working closely with the target group.

Example: I Bike

Within this project, schools are taking responsibility for targeting pupils from P5 upwards, when they start Bikeability training. Priority is given to pupils who would not normally have access to bikes, who are in areas of high deprivation based on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation and who are eligible for free school meals. The schools are managing this process themselves, as they know their pupils well. It also means that individual details for pupils don’t need to be passed between organisations.

Example: Barnardo’s Gearing Up

The Gearing Up project includes Barnardo’s as a key partner. Barnardo’s identifies the young people eligible for a free bike. All are aged 10 to 16, and working with Barnardo’s for a wide range of reasons due to life challenges. Staff work with the young people on a one to one basis and recruit young people. This process is in its early stages.

Example: Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools

The Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools pilot involves grants to secondary schools. Schools are asked how they would identify and assess pupils’ eligibility. A range of suggestions have been made by schools, and at the time of the fieldwork the grants had not yet been made to the schools and bikes had not yet been distributed.

Example: Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies

The Clackmannanshire Bike Buddies pilot is a universal programme offered in target schools, and also raises awareness through wider routes. All pupils in P7 will receive a letter about the programme. The programme is universal, and pupils can choose to opt out if they don’t want to be involved.

Example: Equality Cycles

Equality Cycles works closely with schools. All of their work is in an area of high deprivation, and access to the bikes is further targeted. Schools send out letters to pupils eligible for free school meals, and families get in touch with the school to opt in. These contact details are then passed to the project, which gets in touch to arrange the free bike. This approach is working well so far.   


Projects were in the early stages of this work, but identified some useful learning from the approaches. Most projects felt that their approach was working reasonably well so far.

Projects working with schools generally found this approach worked well. Families could be targeted effectively, and the knowledge of teachers and wider support staff could be built in to ensure families were not overlooked due to strict criteria. Administering the bike distribution through schools also helped to reduce the need for personal information to be shared between partners. The timing of the launch of the pilots coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic and the emergence of the Omicron variant, which put some additional pressures on schools and impacted capacity to some extent.

Example: Rock Up and Ride

Rock Up and Ride targets young people through working closely with Active Schools. There is a broad criteria for pupils who are eligible for free school meals or eligible for the uniform grant. However, they work closely with schools because there can be young people who don’t meet that criteria but can still be deemed to be in need of a free bike.

Some projects also found that they needed to invest time in building relationships with young people and families. This could involve working closely with partners who have good relationships with families and communities, or taking time to develop relationships gently over time.

Example: Engaging young people

One project aims to target a group of young people who have high levels of need, working with a trusted third sector partner agency. It found that it needed to invest in staff training around the needs of the target group, and introduce a gradual approach to building relationships with the young people. It now plans to meet young people informally and individually over a hot drink or for a walk, to build rapport before connecting them into the cycle project.

Example: Using cycle leaders to engage families

In one project, the partners were trained as cycle leaders, and will be involved in delivery of the cycle training to young people. Staff in the partner organisation have strong relationships with the young people, so are able to obtain their buy-in and use the existing rapport to facilitate engagement in the cycling activity.

In some cases, projects had to take time to think about how to raise awareness of the opportunity in a way that would connect with their core audience. One project partner ran a successful social media campaign, and another is planning to translate information into different languages to ensure all are aware of the opportunity.

Example: A social media campaign

One partner, a sports club, initially found it difficult to reach the target group in a way that felt friendly and appropriate. As a community club, staff and volunteers were not used to gathering detailed information about participants’ socioeconomic status. The partner ran a social media campaign targeting families in receipt of the uniform allowance which it found was highly effective. The club now has a waiting list of over 100 young people, who are eligible, and who will receive a bike.

Example: Bike for Good

Bike for Good targets pupils through sending letters out through three schools to parents of children eligible for free school meals. Parents then apply for a bike online via the website, and get a message when the bike is ready for pick up. The approach is working well so far. The project is also planning to translate letters into a range of languages, and re-issue as there is a high volume of families for whom English is not their first language.

Some project leads and partners commented on the challenge of finding a balance between efficiently identifying and reaching the target group, and not wishing to stigmatise people through the offer.

I didn’t want people to feel like it was a charity bike, so we framed it as an active travel opportunity.” - Project partner

One project found that using an opt out model helped to reach many families, but created some challenges around parental engagement. And one project found that using an opt in model created some challenges in terms of families being willing to accept the offer of a free bike.

Example: Learning about small communities

In one small, rural community no families took up the offer of a free bike, despite a teacher identifying and communicating directly with eligible families. Partners reported that this was not an unusual response, as people in the community did not want to be seen as being in need, and did not want to accept ‘hand outs’.

Example: Using an opt out model

In one project, a partner felt that the ‘opt out’ model provided fewer opportunities for engagement. Families were invited to complete an online survey to share more information about their needs, but so far very few had chosen to provide this. The partner noted that the only reason for families to communicate with them was to opt out, and they would have preferred more direct engagement at this early stage.

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