TRANSPORT chiefs in York are to look at whether hundreds of pupils in the city could be given free bikes to help them get to school.

The idea is one of a string of possibilities which will be analysed by City of York Council as it tries to make school runs safer, less congested and more environmentally friendly.

Officers will now assess if parents could be given the choice of choosing vouchers to cover the cost of bike equipment instead of free bus travel. But they must decide whether such a scheme would ultimately save public money.

The council’s executive has also agreed to take forward a task group’s recommendations on a string of other school travel areas, including allowing enforcement teams more time to ensure parking restrictions near schools are obeyed.

A report which went before the executive said 1,632 pupils were currently travelled to and from school by bus. The authority contracts the necessary vehicles from public transport operators, and it warned buying bike vouchers instead might not lead to costs being cut.

But the report stated: “Potential savings could be made for the 411 pupils the access and community transport team currently buys bus passes for. By moving these pupils to bicycles, it would reduce the cost, as a bicycle voucher would be cheaper than a bus pass. We currently spend about £151,000 a year on bus passes.”

Coun Ruth Potter, who chaired the committee which examined the issue, said: “A number of constructive ideas have been put forward and we put forward 14 proposals in all.

“One of the most important calls we are making is that school travel plan co-ordinators are protected in the forthcoming budget process. Without the work they do with schools, the council is never going to realise its objective of reducing the number of car journeys to school.”

Council leader Andrew Waller also said the free bikes idea had caused “concerns” among cycle retailers about whether it would affect their business.

The council’s executive member for city strategy, Coun Steve Galloway, said “a lot more clarity” was needed on incentives for switching pupils from buses to bikes.