Supporting young people living in poverty to access bikes through their schools

Gifting a bike to a young person by Sustains during the And She Cycles campaign.
Published: 20/03/2023

(March 2023) Guest speaker at the first Place Forum, Maurizio Carlino-Rackett Access to Bikes (A2B) Coordinator from Sustrans Scotland, shared their story of how they help young people in poverty through the A2B pilot project.

Sustrans’ Access to Bikes (A2B) is one of ten pilots funded by Transport Scotland as part of the Scottish Government’s ‘Free Bikes Pilot’ for school age children who cannot afford them.

Our place-based approach is centred around schools. Through this project, we aim to build a legacy within the school that would continue to provide access to bikes to children in poverty after the pilot ends. A2B has been running since August 2021.

Project overview

We provide fleets of bikes and on-hand expertise to schools in three of Scotland’s local authorities: Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, and West Lothian. Two schools in each local authority receive 50 bikes alongside storage and equipment, such as helmets, lights, locks and tools. Furthermore, a third primary school, usually a primary school, gets a smaller fleet of 14 bikes with the same accessories.

The large fleets are split into two parts: fleet bikes and loan bikes. Meanwhile, the small fleet is entirely fleet bikes. Working with the school we lend out bikes to children in poverty and use the fleet bikes to run outreach. Each school shapes their own outreach. We’ve seen fantastic initiatives as a result, including led rides instead of buses for school trips, all female cycling groups, and bicycle maintenance classes.


A2B had great success reaching children in poverty. A total of 92% of teachers thought the bike loans and fleets had a positive impact on increasing access. Additionally, 75% of parents and carers agreed that the loaned bike had improved their child’s ability to travel independently, as well as provide a free method of travel during the cost-of-living crisis.

Since August 2021, 30 bikes have been gifted, while 146 have been out on long-term loan. Around 600 bicycle sessions have been delivered at participating schools, which have seen 5300 individual bike uses.


Of the challenges faced, four stand out.

One barrier we faced was the lack of data. When deciding which groups to offer our support to, it was difficult to gain valuable insight from available metrics, like free school meals. We instead relied on placed based knowledge, either from staff or the community.

Also, school staff were keen but busy. We often ran sessions, provided training and assistance where required, and shared resources and expertise.

Plus, the lack of resources meant that loan bikes were oversubscribed. There is a large demand for both engagement and bikes from the community that goes unmet. This also means schools are reluctant to gift bikes if they’re not going to be replaced.

The final challenge is acceptance. Some parents and pupils rejected the opportunity or the bike because of the connotations involved with receiving a free bike.


A2B hopes any learning from the project helps shape future interventions. We’d like to see the project grow and reach more children in poverty. Finally, we hope the evidence can be used to support this or other projects in their respective places. Sustained commitment will result in greater change. Here’s to a brighter future for all.

Young people cycling through the woods with Sustains Scotland during the And She Cycles campaign.
Horizontal woods - Sustrans AndSheCycles West Calder, Scotland

Writer biography

Maurizio Carlino-Rackett is the Access to Bikes (A2B) coordinator for Sustrans. Part of the IBike management team that support and organises active travel behaviour change in schools across Scotland.

A qualified bicycle mechanic, Maurizio is a staunch supporter of empowering people to understand and tinker with the world around them on the path to a more sustainable future.

Sustrans Scotland provides advice, support and funding that makes it easier for people to walk and cycle for everyday journeys.

All images © Andy Catlin (

The power of place in child poverty and cost of living crisis

Find out more about our first Place Forum event and hear about the power of place and collaboration in child poverty and cost of living crisis.

Read event outputs