Bicycles are being given to 43 first and primary schools across the borough to assist with road safety education.
Each school will be provided with six balance bikes – training bikes without pedals - six pedal bikes, 12 helmets, as well as an equipment kit bag and training to aid learning as part of the My Travel Choices project, which is being part funded by South Western Railway.
The project aims to give children easy and regular access to a bike at an early age, learn how to ride and control a bike, and enhance the road safety and cycling proficiency programmes that are already being provided to schools. It also aims to give children an understanding of the sustainable travel options available to them from a young age and encourage their use.
By investing in and growing the council’s successful road safety education programme teaching travel and road safety skills, My Travel Choices will deliver classes and activities for children in each school year from reception to year six, with each year building upon learning from the last.
The project has been funded by the council and South Western Railway’s Customer and Communities Improvement Fund. Schools have started to receive their bikes this month and, where required, they will also receive a storage shed to keep their equipment secure and dry. Most of the bikes were supplied by Frog Bikes, near Sunninghill.
Councillor Phil Haseler, Cabinet Member for Planning, Parking, Highways and Transport, said: “It is vital that children have the necessary training and skills to help keep them safe on roads around the borough and beyond. This already starts at a young age with Bikeability training offered to children attending local schools covering basic bike control, the skills needed to ride on quieter roads and navigate simple junctions; and more advanced skills required for multi-lane roads and more complex junctions.
“Alongside this it is crucial to ensure they have access to the bikes they need to put this into practice, and I’m pleased we have been able to provide these and the associated equipment and training to so many schools in the borough which I’m sure will be of great benefit to their pupils.
“By giving children regular and early access to balance and pedal bikes they are more likely to be able to ride a bike and develop the necessary skills to complete their Bikeability training. Combined with the road safety training in schools, the aim is that by year six - or 11-years-old - the children have gained the skills and knowledge they need to be safer cyclists and more confident in travelling independently in a sustainable way as they move into their secondary school years.
“The project also supports our Active Travel ambitions to encourage use of sustainable forms of transport, such as cycling and walking, and reduce the reliance on motor vehicles for short journeys. This has benefits for the environment, as well as for physical and mental wellbeing.”
Veronika Krcalova, SWR’s Customer and Communities Improvement Fund Manager, added: “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to support the communities that our network serves.
“This imaginative initiative will help children to learn how to be safe on the road from an early age with the bonus of encouraging them to discover the joys of cycling – which, like the railway, is a sustainable and environmentally friendly means of transport.”
Freya Harrison, UK Sales and Partnerships Manager at Frog Bikes, said: "We're delighted to be supporting the My Travel Choices project and are so happy to be able to support our local council where Frog Bikes HQ is based. We are really looking forward to working with the council to help make Frog Bikes available to school children so they can learn to ride and enjoy cycling during the school day.”