Sheffield’s cycle-crazy children bling their bikes

Cycle skills also on the menu at Bike Breakfast

by Kevin Emery   October 12, 2009  

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Cycle-crazy children blinged their bikes with 3D flames, signatures and other motifs to celebrate the installation of their Sheffield school’s new bike shed. More than 50 youngsters piled their bikes into the new facility at Emmanuel Junior School, installed as part of the Bike It project set up by sustainable transport charity Sustrans.

The children also bike-powered their own smoothies and took part in cycle skills sessions during a Bike Breakfast last Friday. Among them was Simon Benedict-Flavell, aged nine, who first learnt to cycle soon after the Bike It project started last November.

Simon, who now pedals the two-mile journey from Hackenthorpe every day, said: “I really enjoy cycling to school because it’s a lot of fun and much quicker than walking. It was very difficult trying to pedal at first and I kept falling off, but I managed to be brave enough to do it and felt very happy.”

Simon is among 12-15 children who cycle to Emmanuel Juniors everyday, and the cycling culture is spreading to Waterthorpe Infants and Westfield Secondary School.

Teacher Elaine Fitzpatrick said: “The enthusiasm for Bike It has been tremendous. I’ve been here for ten years and never seen a bike in the playground before this project began.

"Cycling is fantastic for children’s confidence, especially those who are timid as it gives them a bit of street cred. And cycling improves their sense of independence because they don’t have to rely on a lift each morning.

“The response from parents has also been wonderful, as they’ve taken part and are enjoying the various benefits.”

Emmanuel Juniors’ Bike It officer Ruth Chiat is one of two officers working with 24 schools across Sheffield, with funding from Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Primary Care Trust.

Chiat said: “Bikes have always been popular but whereas they might have got left in the shed as soon as they get a puncture, now the children know they can bring it into school and I can help them fix it. Cycling has become a skill they will hopefully take with them throughout their life.”

Further information about Sustrans and Bike It, visit www.sustrans.org.uk.