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Dorset’s Bike It Plus project gets more children cycling to school

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More children are now cycling to school in Dorset thanks to the success of the Bike It Plus project, says a new report.

Bike It Plus, which is funded by Dorset Council and run by the charity Sustrans, has been working with schools across Dorset to help encourage more young people to walk, cycle or wheel to school.

In the past year, the project has supported over 36 schools to deliver fun and engaging activities that boost the skill levels of young people in walking, wheeling or cycling.  Giving children and their parents the confidence and ability to travel to and from school actively.

Activities have included learn to ride, cycle confidence and scooter skills sessions, as well as bike maintenance and repair workshops.  Bike It Plus officers have also run community events, interactive school assemblies, competitions, and breakfasts to help tackle some of the barriers and challenges to active travel.

The sessions have proven to be very popular and last year were attended by over 15,000 children, staff and parents.  As a result, over 470 children in the county have been supported to learn how to ride a bike or improve their cycling skills. According to the project, this has led to an increase in the number of children now travelling to school by active means.

The team recently surveyed schools supported through the project and over 65% of respondents said they had seen a rise in the number of pupils now using an active mode of transport to get to school.

One school in the east of the county reported an increase of nearly 20% in active travel following support from the Bike It Plus project, with 75% of their pupils now walking, wheeling or cycling to school.

Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said:

“I’m thrilled to hear the Bike It Plus project is having such a positive impact on school communities in Dorset.

“By improving cycling and road safety skills, the project has not only provided children with valuable life skills but has also helped families change how they travel to school.

“Swapping short journeys in the car for more active travel like walking, cycling or wheeling has proven benefits for our health and wellbeing, our pockets and our climate.  More active travel can also mean quieter and safer roads in our county, especially at school drop off and pick up.”

Bike It Plus has also helped schools to promote active travel in their communities and access local funding to improve walking and cycling facilities at their sites.

Southill Primary School in Weymouth is one of the schools that has received support from the project this year.  And with the help of Bike It Plus, they have now launched a FRideDay Bike Bus.  The bike bus works like a normal bus picking children up at designated stops along the route. 

Recent surveys carried out by the project have shown an overall decrease in the number of pupils being driven to school where Bike It Plus support has been given.  If this change in behaviour is sustained over the next year, it’s expected that over 75,000 miles in car journeys will be avoided.

This reduction in car use isn’t just good for the planet, saving a likely 20 tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions, but also great for the purse with an expected saving of over £10,000 in fuel costs. 

The Bike It Plus project is currently set to run until August 2024.  For more information on cycling and walking to school, including how to access training courses, advice and bike buying guides, visit the Dorset Council website