Industry-funded initiative organised by Susrans aims to get people pedalling to school

Sustrans has revealed that more than a quarter of a million schoolchildren from 800 schools around the UK will be taking part in this year’s The Big Pedal, which gets underway next Monday and lasts for three weeks.

The initiative, organised by the sustainable transport charity and funded by the bicycle industry via Bike Hub, sees children, their parents and staff take to their bikes to make the journey to school, racking up the miles to compete for a range of prizes.

The Big Pedal aims to encourage regular cycling to school, with Sustrans saying that while currently only one per cent of children aged between five and 10 do so, its research shows over half of all children would like to.

Sustrans School Travel Director, Paul Osborne, commented, “We’re delighted with how many schools have signed up to take part. The Big Pedal is a great way for whole school communities to join together as they take on schools from across the country.

“It is vital that we give young people 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.”

Registration, via The Big Pedal website, closes this Friday, and schools can either sign up to the whole three weeks, or a special one-day stage that will coincide with Bike to School Week, which takes place between 21 and 25 March. “Stages” are similar to those in the Tour de France, with time trials, flat and mountain stages, and the more people cycle to a particular school on a specific stage, the better the time awarded, with the school recording the lowest overall time being the winner.

Philip Darnton, deputy president of the Bicycle Association, said: “The Big Pedal, delivered by Sustrans and funded by the cycle industry, celebrates the fun that cycling brings children. Learning to ride a bike is a key milestone in children’s lives, and the thrill of getting about independently is an important part of growing up. Bikeability, backed up with other wider skills programmes, gives them the confidence to ride safely, and the Big Pedal shows that children everywhere can cycle safely to school.”

The winning school will receive a visit from the M.A.D cycle stunt team, while national runners-up will get a Minipod bike and scooter storage system valued at more than £1,000, and regional winners will get a 78-piece tool kit together with work stand courtesy of Weldtite and Fisher Outdoor, which will also be providing five cycle repair tool kits and floor pumps as prizes for the daily challenges during the last week of the Big Pedal.

In terms of the number of schools taking part, this year’s entry is twice that of 12 months ago when 408 schools completed a total of 288,201 journeys, racking up nearly half a million miles in the process.

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.