THE UK's first school bike share scheme was officially launched in the Forth Valley last week.

The innovative project by charity Forth Environment Link (FEL), in conjunction with bike share operator nextbike, has seen bike rental stations installed at three of the area's high schools, Bannockburn, Stirling, and Wallace, with a fourth station to follow at St Modan's High School.

By offering teenagers easy access to free public bike share, FEL hopes to instil active travel habits that will last a lifetime.

Shirley Paterson, FEL's active travel development manager, said: "There is a distinct drop off in cycling numbers between primary and secondary school.

"So, we're targeting pupils aged 14 and over to get them back on their bikes before they head off to the world of work or further study.

"By incorporating cycling into their daily lives now, they're much more likely to become active adults.

"Road safety is, of course, paramount, so we're giving every pupil who signs up to the scheme half a day's cycle training and a voucher for a bike helmet."

The charity's active travel hub has had a fantastic response to the scheme, with 23 pupils already signed up ahead of the official launch.

The first cohort includes 18 pupils from Bannockburn High School who will use the scheme to commute between their school and local primary schools to assist with the delivery of PE lessons.

Cllr Jim Thomson, convener of Stirling Council's environment and housing committee, said: "The introduction of the bike share project across our schools is the latest in an exciting series of initiatives in supporting active travel, creating a sustainable Stirling and protecting the environment.

"There are a wide range of health, educational and environmental benefits of cycling to school or for leisure and it's fantastic that there has already been a great response to this innovative scheme by our young people."

The school bike share stations are an extension to the nextbike scheme which already operates in Stirling.

Each school will have 10 bikes, as well as access to the 160 bikes stationed across the city.

Normally, nextbike memberships are only open to those aged 18 and over.

The initiative was made possible thanks to a £103,560 grant from Transport Scotland.

Each school's bikes have their own identity, thanks to the artistic talents of pupils. The four winning bike designs were unveiled at last Friday's launch at Bannockburn High School.