Streets need to be made safer to cycle
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. sustrans.org.uk/ 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