In 1995 Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, was awarded a major grant of £43.5 million of National Lottery funds by the Millennium Commission for the UK National Cycle Network (NCN). This flagship project was officially opened in June 2000 with 8,000 kilometres of cycling and walking routes passing through the centres of major towns and cities and linking urban areas with the countryside. A further 8,000 kilometres are due to be completed by 2005 (Sustrans, 2000). The initiative is a demonstration project; the NCN routes provide the basis for the development of local area networks. The principal aim is to encourage people to take up cycling for the first time, or to start to cycle again.
Working with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and North Shore City Council on the ‘Travelwise to School’ pilot project on the North Shore in 2002, we surveyed the parent community to ascertain their interest in various alternative modes for their children’s travel to and from school. We found that 87 of the 184 families who responded would allow their children to cycle to school in a group with another adult supervising their ride. One-third of these families offered to supervise the children on a rostered basis. This suggested that there was a high, albeit latent, interest in the wider community in what we call the ‘cycle train’. Because of this interest, we undertook to implement cycle train networks in New Zealand schools. The cycle train is similar in approach to another alternative way of getting children to and from school, the ‘walking school bus’ (WSB), where adult ‘conductors’ walk along a set route to school, collecting children from designated ‘bus stops’. The cycle train is essentially a ‘walking school bus’ on bicycle wheels.