Bike schemes growing but gaps in access remain: new nationwide survey

26 January 2021    

Self-employed, low-paid and non-working adults have less access. The report recognises diverse range and increased funding of schemes (more than 200) since 2018.

A nationwide study commissioned by Scotland’s cycling organisation has found a big rise in the range and number of bike schemes since 2018 – but gaps in access remain to be tackled.

The “Access to Bike Schemes in Scotland” report, commissioned by Cycling Scotland and undertaken by sustainable transport expert Transform Consulting, identified more than 200 projects that make it easier for people to access or own a bike.

These include schemes providing bikes to: key workers, refugees, people with disabilities and those recovering from ill-health.

But low-paid, self-employed and non-working adults are less well-served than salaried workers.

According to the report, most schemes have launched in the past three years – due to a substantial increase in funding by the Scottish Government for projects to enable cycling, walking and wheeling – in an effort to tackle transport poverty.

The report highlights the diversity of schemes tailored to local needs, which include pool bike fleets, bike loans for events, public bike hire, adaptive bikes, cycle to work and bike recycling schemes.

  • Most are small, local projects run by community groups with a small number of bikes.
  • Medium-sized schemes are run by established cycling charities while on-street bike hire is provided by local authorities and universities in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling.
  • Several organisations run nationwide schemes including private sector cycle to work and grant or loan schemes funded by the Scottish Government.
  • Three-quarters of survey respondents were reliant on grants and fundraising to finance their schemes while just over half only had funding for a year or less.

Kath Brough, Head of Behaviour Change at Cycling Scotland, said: “This report shows that access to bikes has increased since 2018. It’s really positive to see such a broad range of organisations getting involved in supporting cycling for everyone, and its key role in improving health and combating climate change. And the depth and breadth of current schemes shows there’s demand for further increasing access to bikes.

“But more action is needed at a national and local level to ensure cycling is accessible and affordable for everyone, helping us to create a fairer, healthier, and more environmentally sustainable Scotland.”

The report makes four recommendations:

  • Provide multi-year funding to give access-to-bike scheme organisations financial security and help long-term planning.
  • Increase access to bikes for adults who are self-employed, low paid or not working.
  • Set clear objectives for access-to-bike schemes, in line with the Scottish Government’s Active Travel Framework.
  • Consider collecting national data on bike recycling and re-use in Scotland for the first time.

Elspeth Wray, Enterprise Manager at Transform Consulting, said: “It’s heartening to learn about all the groups up and down Scotland who want to share their love of bikes with others.

“Our research reveals that there’s a huge diversity of bike schemes out there, from small community-run volunteer projects to national programmes with the potential to reach millions of people.

“Cycling has so many benefits – it’s better for the environment, it keeps you fit and gets you out in the fresh air. We found that many organisations are keen to secure long-term funding and expand their bike access schemes, so that even more people get the chance to get on a bike and fall in love with cycling.”

Satinder Panesar is a healthcare professional from Glasgow who contacted access-to-bike scheme Bike for Good in June last year. Under its Keyworker Bike Loan Scheme, she was able to borrow a bike to ride to work.

She said: “I knew Bike for Good from when I had cycling confidence lessons, and they were amazing; I always felt uplifted. Learning how to ride a bike on the road gave me a sense of freedom and being able to use one during the pandemic has really helped my mental health.

“My confidence has improved, my fitness has improved – I never thought I would be able to cycle the seven miles I do just now! I can't thank Bike for Good enough for not only helping me learn a new skill but also helping me get to work and back home again during covid.”

Zozan, an asylum seeker who lives in Edinburgh, received a bike from Bikes for Refugees (Scotland), a charity that refurbishes and provides donated bikes to New Scots across Scotland.

He said: “The bike provides me with mobility and easy access to all parts of the city without being dependent on buying expensive bus tickets. It is also very important for personal health. When you don’t have time or money to go to the gym and swimming, cycling makes you always active. Having a bike makes your life easier and healthier.”