On Monday October 11, UK charity, Sustrans is challenging around 8000 Welsh school pupils from 40 primary schools across the Principality to take part in a challenging, 709 mile bike ride, in a bid to increase cycling levels amongst children.
Sustrans will challenge schools to complete the 709 mile route – which will take children on a virtual route around Wales, without ever leaving their local area - in just five days, racing against each other to get around the route first. The winning school will be announced at the National Assembly for Wales on October 19 by the Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones.
The race is being launched today at an event being held at Marlborough Junior School in the Roath district of Cardiff. Jane Lorimer, Sustrans Deputy Director for Wales will present results of Sustrans’ work with 12 schools in the area - which have typically seen the number of children cycling to school once a week, triple over the last year. Jenny Randerson AM, Welsh Assembly Member for Cardiff Central, will also make a speech to congratulate the schools in Cardiff on their efforts in encouraging children to use healthy forms of transport.
During the week-long cycle race pupils, parents and teachers clock up mileage points each time they cycle to school. Each of these short local trips is awarded a set amount of miles, contributing to the school’s virtual journey around Wales. The results are fed into a central database, where the school’s total mileage is calculated and its national position verified. Schools will be told how well they are doing each day against other schools in their area and across Wales. The first school to complete the total mileage of route is declared the winner.
Sustrans Deputy Director for Wales, Jane Lorimer says, “This race will act 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.”
There are some great prizes up for grabs; the school that completes the race first will receive a special visit from BMX bike stunt team - Team Extreme - where BMX tricks will be displayed and pupils will get a chance to learn new techniques. There will also be plenty of bike related goodies for regional winners.
Sustrans works with over 50 schools across Wales to help children overcome whatever it is that is preventing them from cycling to school. Participating schools across England and Wales have seen levels of cycling treble within a year– bucking the trend in declining numbers of children cycling to school.
Staff, parents and teachers who are interested in promoting cycling and walking in their school are encouraged to call the Sustrans School Travel Team on 0117 915 0100 for free information and advice.