Belfast school targets cycling transformation

Pupils want to cycle more often

by Kevin Emery   December 7, 2009  

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Scores of eager young cyclists wheeled into their playground for the start of plans to transform the school run. A total of 85 children arrived at St Brides Primary School to mark its involvement in Bike It, run by Sustrans. The students, aged nine and 10, took part in a range of cycling activities on Friday including test rides of BMXs to bike mechanic workshops.

Sustrans is attempting to introduce a pro-cycling culture at the Derry Volgie Avenue school, which currently has just eight regular cyclists. Of 394 children surveyed 316 arrive by car, whilst 282 out of 342 children who never cycle would like to walk or cycle more often.

Bike It officer Jill McDonald said: “We’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us to turn around the current travel habits but I’m confident this project will be a success because – above all else - children love cycling.

“But it is equally important to reassure parents that cycling is a very safe form of travel providing children have the necessary skills. So our initial events will involve parents as much as possible, and show how cycling can have massive benefits for their children’s health, confidence and sense of independence.”

Jill has recruited a 12-strong bike crew, consisting of pupils who will plan events between now and June 2010 to encourage their classmates onto their bikes. Ideas so far include free breakfasts for children and parents who cycle into school, obstacle courses to improve skills and inspirational performances by stunt riders.

New bike sheds will be installed with funding from the Department of Regional Development’s Travelwise scheme. And cycle training will be provided to 32 children next term.

Bike It has typically managed to double cycling levels at schools it is working with across the UK.

More information about Sustrans and Bike It is available from www.sustrans.org.uk.