Streets need to be made safer to cy­cle

Macclesfield Express - - YOUR PICTURES - SARAH ROE

YOU may not have no­ticed it but the air around Greater Manch­ester was ever so slightly cleaner in the last two weeks of April.

The rea­son? Hun­dreds of chil­dren, nor­mally strapped into the back seats of cars and fer­ried to the school gate, made a mass, joy­ful bike or scooter ride for their daily com­mute.

They were part of the na­tional Big Pedal Chal­lenge, which is or­gan­ised by Sus­trans, and 22 schools around the city took part.

Over the two weeks chil­dren across the city re­gion made 10,340 jour­neys to school by bi­cy­cle or scooter as part of the Big Pedal this year. To­gether with schools across the north west they saved more than 38 tonnes of car­bon diox­ide from be­ing emit­ted and ped­alled over 138,000 miles.

Judg­ing by the happy pic­tures of schoolchil­dren on bikes and scoot­ers that came flood­ing into the Big Pedal web­site dur­ing the event it was not just an al­tru­is­tic ex­er­cise to clean up our air. Cy­cling and scoot­ing to­gether along a quiet side road or path is a lot more fun than sit­ting in traf­fic, and all our ev­i­dence shows that ‘ac­tive travel’ such as walk­ing and cy­cling is great for chil­dren to pre­pare for the school day.

Cale Green Pri­mary School in Stock­port, a reg­u­lar Big Pedal par­tic­i­pant, re­cently re­ceived a Gold Award from Sus­trans for its ef­forts to get more chil­dren cy­cling and walk­ing.

The school re­ceived fund­ing to get a cy­cle route to the school gate as well as bike and scooter park­ing.

Head­teacher David Mar­shall says he has no­ticed short and longer term ben­e­fits from en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren at his school to choose two wheels for their school jour­ney.

He said: “The chil­dren ar­rive at school en­er­gised and ready to learn. They are re­ally en­thu­si­as­tic about cy­cling and fit­ness, and they un­der­stand that th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties im­pact on their own health and the en­vi­ron­ment.

“We know they take th­ese val­ues with them af­ter they’ve left the school as we see for­mer pupils cy­cling past on their way to high school.”

More chil­dren on bikes means fewer cars on the roads at peak school drop-off time and a lot less pol­lu­tion. You only need to com­pare qui­eter school hol­i­day traf­fic with nor­mal traf­fic to un­der­stand the im­pact of the school run.

This year more than 1,300 schools across the coun­try par­tic­i­pated in the Big Pedal and its pop­u­lar­ity shows just how much de­mand there is for chang­ing our chil­dren’s trans­port habits.

The prob­lem is that most par­ents are, rightly, con­cerned that the roads are not yet safe to cy­cle with chil­dren. More sep­a­rate cy­cle routes and con­nect­ing links to traf­fic-free paths like the Fal­low­field Loop or the Bridge­wa­ter Way would be a good start.

Per­haps a small part of the money from the am­bi­tious £15bn road In­vest­ment strat­egy could be spent on en­cour­ag­ing some peo­ple out of their cars, by mak­ing our streets safer for bikes.

The Big Pedal (April 18-29) is the UK’s largest in­ter-school cy­cling and scoot­ing chal­lenge, funded by the Bike Hub.

Sus­trans is the na­tional char­ity that helps more peo­ple to cy­cle, walk or use pub­lic trans­port for ev­ery­day jour­neys.

Find out more about cy­cling to school with your kids at www. sus­ change-your-travel/ chil­dren-and-fam­i­lies/ school-run

●● Chil­dren took to their bikes as part of the na­tional Big Pedal Chal­lenge or­gan­ised by Sus­trans at the end of April

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