Building on the legacy of the Tour de France Grand Depart, held in July, the country’s first ever network of bike libraries has been launched in Yorkshire.
Donated bikes will be repaired and renovated and made available for people of all ages to borrow free of charge.
The scheme has been backed by Leeds cyclist Scott Thwaites, who picked up a bronze medal in the road race at this year’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
He said: “A lot of people aren’t able to afford bikes, especially with children, as they get older they grow out of bikes very quickly, it can get very expensive. This scheme enables all children everywhere in Yorkshire to go to a bike library, take a bike, give it a try and just see if they like the sport, and I think that’s a great idea.”
Five-time winner of the Tour de France Bernard Hinault is also supporting the scheme, which he said was a chance for the next generation to experience cycling.
He said: “This could be a launching pad for participation in cycling. Children have seen the images from the Tour in Yorkshire and now they can have a bike for themselves and have a go - they could all the way to the Tour de France itself. It’s inspirational.”
Mirfield cyclist Brian Robinson, the first Brit to win a stage of the Tour de France, said the scheme was a great way to get children interested in cycling.
“If this helps just ten per cent of those who borrow a bike take up cycling it will be a great result,” he said.
The three year scheme is being organised by Yorkshire Bank and Cycle Yorkshire, which includes Leeds-based Welcome to Yorkshire, who were responsible for winning the Grand Depart bid.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity said: “We said before we got the Tour de France that we wanted to have a lasting legacy and we wanted to be the first place in the world where every child would have access to a bicycle. This is a really important step on that journey.”
Earlier this month it was revealed that the Grand Depart boosted the UK economy by an estimated £130m. Part of the legacy of the Grand Depart will be a new elite cycling race, the Tour of Yorkshire, but Bike Libraries offer a chance for people “of all ages and backgrounds” to take up cycling, Mr Verity said.
“To use a French parlance we want this to be ‘par tous et partout’, for everyone and everybody,” he added.
Donation stations are based across the region, including in Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and York. Visit www.bikelibraries.co.uk for details.