Caithness development officer says cycle access scheme funding can be 'a win-win'
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Schools, development trusts, community organisations and workplaces in Caithness are being encouraged to apply to a new fund that will support cycle access schemes across Scotland.
The Cycle Share Fund, delivered by Cycling UK and funded by the Scottish Government, is designed to get more people using a bike – even if they don't own one.
Grants are open to organisations that would be interested in running a cycle share scheme and George Ewing, Caithness development officer for Cycling UK's Rural Connections project, would like to see local groups taking advantage.
“I think it's a win-win all round," he said.
"The Cycle Share Fund is there for people in Scotland to get cycling, effectively. It provides grants to schemes that can give people affordable, easy, convenient access to bikes that they don't own.
"Schools could potentially apply to this fund to get a pool of bikes that they can allow the children to borrow.
“That's just one example, but it could be an employer, it could be a development trust, that decides they want to go forward and apply for money from this fund. They could have a pool of bikes, or ebikes, that they could lend out to people in the community that can't afford to have one but would like to use one."
George has arranged a meeting with one local school and says he intends to "flag it up to as many as possible". He will be bringing the fund to the attention of all the development trusts in Caithness.
“It's always the case that there is a limited amount of money there," he said. "But it would be nice for some of that money to be used locally, with some local groups or organisations."
He explained: “It doesn't need to be standard bikes – it can be non-standard bikes, it can be adapted bikes, it can be tricycles, it can be hand bikes. If that group is working with someone who has needs that a standard bike wouldn't meet, then a non-standard or an adapted bike would be something that they could look at buying.
“And it's not just about buying the bikes – it can potentially be used for other barriers that stop people having bikes. It could be that if a school needs a shed to store the bikes, there's the potential that the funding can be used for that as well."
George took up his role with Cycling UK in 2021. Through its Rural Connections initiative, the charity encourages active travel instead of driving for short journeys.
He is keen to promote the benefits of cycling in terms of health and wellbeing and the environment.
"Obviously there are mental health benefits, and benefits to physical health and wellbeing," he said. "It also could potentially reduce the number of vehicles on the road so it's reducing the carbon footprint of the community."
The £1 million fund was launched last month. It will tackle barriers to cycling including the upfront costs of buying a bike, uncertainty around choosing the right bike or how to maintain it, or lack of a safe place to store a cycle.
Details of how to apply are on the Cycling UK website.
Launching the funding, Scotland's minister for active travel, Patrick Harvie, said: “I’m pleased to announce the Scottish Government investment of £1m to support and develop cycle access schemes across the country.
“This investment demonstrates our commitment to removing barriers to cycling by expanding access – helping to keep the wheels in motion for everyday cycling.
“For our health, wellbeing and environment, we’re committed to building an active nation and making it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle for shorter everyday trips."