More than 500 schools take part in month-long virtual bike race

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the National Cycle Network by challenging more than 100,000 schoolchildren from 550 primary schools throughout the UK to cycle 5,224 miles, equivalent to almost half the network’s 12,000-mile length, on a virtual journey round Britain.

The initiative, which began yesterday sees pupils, parents and teachers from individual schools club together to clock up miles towards the target over the next month, also has the aim of encouraging children to use their bikes to get to and from their lessons.

Each trip is awarded a set number of miles, with schools feeding the results into a central database, which will calculate its total mileage as well as its national ranking compared to other places of study.

The winner will be the first school to have achieved the target of 5,224 miles, and will get a day-long visit from the M.A.D. Mountain Bike Display Team which will demonstrate tricks and stunts. Regional runners-up will win a bike work stand and toolkit courtesy of Madsion, as well as bike helmets from Nutcase.

Sustrans Project Manager, Mike Madin said: “The Virtual Bike Race acts as a great way for whole school communities to join together as they take on schools from across the country. The most important part will be to show pupils, parents and teachers how easy it is to choose two wheels, instead of four, for the journey to school.

“It is vital that we give young people across the country the opportunity to travel in ways which are healthy, sustainable and fun. Cycling to school has so many benefits for pupils such as improved health, confidence and concentration as well as the obvious benefits for the environment they will grow up in,” he added.

According to recent research from the Department for Biological Sciences, at Essex University, children who cycle to school are the fittest among their peers. Sustrans currently works with nearly 450 schools from around the UK to help children overcome barriers to cycling, with participation levels trebling in a year where its Bike It initiative, which benefits from external funding from the likes of Cycle England and the BikeHub trade fund, is introduced.

Parents, staff and teachers who want their schools to get involved are encouraged to phone the Sustrans School Travel Team on 0117 915 0100.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.