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UK schools prepare for The Big Pedal virtual race around the UK next month

Initiative aimed at getting kids, parents and teachers to tackle the school run by bike

Schools throughout the UK will next month join battle in a national bike race called The Big Pedal, organised by Sustrans and funded by the bicycle industry’s Bike Hub levy, to compete for a variety of prizes.

Last year, 408 schools from throughout the country took part in the competition, in which the miles racked up by children, parents and teachers on their way to and from school were totted up towards the goal of becoming the first school to complete the 5,224 mile target. In all, 288,201 journeys were made by bike, covering around 461,121 miles.

According to Sustrans, that's "the equivalent to cycling to the moon and back" - the second such metaphor we've seen this week, so let's just hope that this year's riders don't bump into any Boris Bikes, particularly during re-entry.

This year’s challenge, which runs from 7-25 March has been split into three stages – ‘time trial,’ ‘sprint’ and ‘hill climb,’ and the more children, parents and teachers cycle in each day, the faster the time the school is given for that day, with the winner being the one with the lowest aggregate time.

The virtual route follows a notional three-week tour of the UK, with stages linking towns using the National Cycle Network, although some of the distances look rather fanciful – Great Yarmouth to London, 595 miles? – but if it gets kids out of the car and onto their bikes, we’re all for it.

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.

Philip Darnton, deputy president of the Bicycle Association, commented: “Bike Hub is very committed to the future of cycling. Children are that future. Unless they learn to ride safely and without fear on their bikes at home and at school, we will create a new generation lost to cycling. Cycling is a life skill – and what better way to get going than to join The Big Pedal?”

Sustrans’ School Travel Director, Paul Osborne added: “We’re delighted to be working so closely with Bike Hub, it’s great to see how dedicated the industry is in supporting young cyclists.

“The race will act as a great way for whole school communities and cycle shops to join together, to encourage children to cycle to school. The most important part of this race will be to show pupils, parents and teachers how easy it is to choose two wheels, instead of four, for the journey to school.”

Any school in the UK can enter the Big Pedal 2011, and participation is free. Schools can either sign up to the whole three-week race, or can instead take part in a special one-day stage during the final week, which coincides with Bike to School Week, running from 21 to 25 March.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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