Clare Taylor reports on a European bike-to-school initiative launched by the European Commission's Intelligent Energy Europe group, known as the Sustainable Travel Accreditation and Recognition for Schools (STARS).
As Taylor sums it up, STARS "is an innovative program that works to increase sustainable mobility by changing the behavior of schoolchildren – and in turn the next generation’s mindset towards sustainability. The program has the simple aim of getting kids to cycle to school instead of being driven by their parents…" The three-year program is based on other bike-to-school projects and expertise (Rotterdam's Ride2School, London's Youth Travel Ambassador and advice from mobility experts Mobiel 21), and aims to bring a "5% modal shift from car-to-bike in participating schools."
The STARS program begins with community collaboration and understanding the community's unique needs. As Taylor notes, "[from] the beginning, teachers, parents, school administrators, and cycling experts must discuss the factors inhibiting kids from cycling to school. Then, they can identify ways to facilitate change with community buy-in. Another key to successful cycling and education initiatives is to understand the unique potentials and constraints of a specific region, and change the general model to suit the region’s individual needs."
So how does it work? To motivate elementary school students to hop on their bike, the program awards children with medals for their biking accomplishments. For older students, the STARS Youth Travel Ambassador Scheme provides training to initiate, design, and implement bike-to-school campaigns. There is also a two-day biking challenge where students compete to be the school with the most biked miles. Taylor cites other exemplary bike-to-school programs such as Brazil's Cycling Schools, Beijing's TEDx events that are making biking cool for students, and a biking program in Maharashtra, India that is targeting girls to stay in school.