15 February 2022

'I would like kids who don't have the means to buy a bike to enjoy the benefits of cycling'

Ellon Academy pupils will be literally getting on their bikes thanks to a new cycle loan scheme.

A fleet of state-of-the-art bicycles as well as safety equipment such as helmets are available for pupils to borrow on a short or long-term basis thanks to the Ellon Academy Bike Library.

The initiative is currently being piloted in Aberdeenshire at Ellon Academy and Kellands Primary School in Inverurie. Sustrans, a charity aiming to increase the numbers of people cycling and walking, is working in partnership with both schools. The project started on Tuesday, February 1.

Principal Teacher of Pupil Development Nat Coe is leading on the project at Ellon Academy. He said: “Sustrans presented us with an opportunity to use funding from the Scottish Government to develop a scheme to encourage young people to use bikes. We have used the money to buy around 50 mountain bikes to populate a bike library on the school campus where kids can apply to take it away for six, eight or even 12 months. It is just a way to encourage cycling and support young people with their wellbeing and families who can’t afford to drive their kids to school.”

He said the premise is very similar to a book library where anyone can borrow books at any time and for any length of time. Mr Coe is hoping to track the usage of the bikes and find out about pupil’s experiences of regular cycling. This will be done by GPS monitors which will be used by Sustrans to evaluate the project’s effectiveness.

“My role at the school is all about giving opportunities to pupils who didn’t have them before. I would like kids and families who don’t have the means to buy bikes to enjoy the benefits of cycling. I would like to encourage more young people to cycle to school and reduce the traffic around the school campus. I grew up in a town like Ellon and having a bike when I was a teenager was my passport to independence. Having a bike allows you to get to the shops or see friends. I am keen for the library to benefit kids during school time, but I am equally passionate about it being used during the school holidays and weekends,” Mr Coe said.

Pupils considering taking part will complete an online form and scan a QR code. These forms will then be assessed by the Ellon Academy senior leadership team. A member of staff from Sustrans is on campus once a week who will maintain all the bikes. Once the application is approved the pupil will get in touch with Tim Bowden from Sustrans, and he will organise the loan. As well as the bike, pupils will get a helmet, a lock, and a light.

Depending on the initial pilot year the scheme could be extended so that parents and carers can borrow bikes too. In addition, schools across Aberdeenshire and Scotland could become part of the initiative.

The community is being asked by the school to consider designs for the storage facility to make it a community focused project. 

Pauline Buchan, Rector of Ellon Academy, said: “This is a fantastic project which will hopefully give pupils a love of cycling that will last long into their adult lives. I applaud Nat Coe’s initiative and enthusiasm for leading on this worthwhile area of work. I would like to thank Sustrans for their support and assistance. I also hope the community embrace the opportunity to add their designs to the bike library.”

Julie Arbuckle, Sustrans I Bike Coordinator, said: “We're delighted to be able to offer bike loans to pupils in two Aberdeenshire schools through our Access To Bikes (A2B) pilot project. Riding a bike should be something that every child and young person gets to experience, so being able to provide the use of a bike to those who wouldn't otherwise have that freedom is really important."