15 Mar 2017 Last updated at 10:00

A wheely big challenge

Isle of Wight schools are encouraging children, teachers and parents to jump on their bikes and scooters for The Big Pedal 2017 - a national challenge to get more young people cycling and scooting to school, backed by two times Olympic gold medallist, cyclist Joanna Rowsell Shand.

Currently 21 schools across the Island have signed up for The Big Pedal 2017, which runs from Monday 20 to Friday 31 March, and will see car journeys to and from school replaced by journeys made using active modes of cycling and scooting. Organised by national walking and cycling charity Sustrans and funded by the Bicycle Association on behalf of the cycle industry through its Bike Hub scheme, The Big Pedal is the UK’s largest competition of its kind.

It is one of 11 projects being supported by the Isle of Wight Council through its current Sustainable Travel Transition Year programme, using external funding secured competitively from the Department for Transport.

During the ten days participating primary and secondary schools will compete with one another to make the most journeys by bike or scooter.

This year’s theme is ‘Around the world in ten days’, with pupils tracking their progress on a map of the world, learning about the countries and cities they pass through on their way.

Executive member for transport and infrastructure, Councillor Ian Ward, said: “We’re really excited so many schools have signed up to take part in The Big Pedal. We hope that by encouraging our children to walk, cycle and scoot to school over the next two weeks we will see a reduction in congestion and pollution around the school gates, as well as helping the children feel healthier and happier.”

Delivery coordinator for Sustrans south, Clare Dowling, said: “The average primary school journey is just 1.6 miles – the perfect distance to walk or cycle.

“The Big Pedal is fun, inclusive and it helps schools to encourage whole families to lead more active lives, as well as reducing car traffic and pollution around the school gates. Although the competition runs for two weeks, it has a lasting effect on the way that the school community travel to school - last year 75 per cent of UK schools that took part in the Big Pedal said pupils continued to cycle and scoot to school following the event.”

Joanna Rowsell Shand is supporting The Big Pedal for the second year running.

One of the best British cyclists of her generation, Joanna has won five world titles across individual and team events and gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

She said: “Cycling is great for young people’s health, confidence and independence. The safer and more comfortable they feel on their bikes, the more they will enjoy cycling.

“The Big Pedal campaign is a fantastic way for kids to cycle together whilst learning about the rules of the road in a fun, engaging way. I hope this year as many schools as possible will take part in the UK’s largest school cycling and scooting event.”

According to the Department for Transport's National Travel Survey 2014, the proportion of children walking and cycling to school has been declining in England since 1995, with the number being driven to primary school increasing each year - as many as one in four cars on the road during the morning peak are on the school run. The Big Pedal challenge aims to increase the levels of cycling across the UK.

Children in the UK now lag far behind their peers in other nations for active travel. Although about two to three per cent of UK children cycle to school compared to 49 per cent of all Dutch primary school children.

Since Sustrans has been working with schools on the island since early 2015, as part of the STTY project, the number of pupils in 2016 who reported “usually” cycling to school (three times a week or more) increased proportionally by 31.4 per cent from 3.5 to 4.6 per cent and a similar percentage increase in those usually scooting to school (from 7.9 per cent up to 10.4 per cent).

Sustrans has been working with schools on the island to promote active travel since early 2015, under the STTY project . Last year, the number of pupils who reported “usually” cycling to school (three times a week or more) increased proportionally by 31.4 per cent from 3.5 to 4.6 per cent and a similar percentage increase in those usually scooting to school (from 7.9 per cent up to 10.4 per cent).

Last year more than 1,500 schools signed up to take part and teachers, parents, siblings and pupils made more than a million journeys (1,179,900) to school on their bikes and scooters.

The Big Pedal 2017 is open to individual classes as well as whole schools, with hundreds of thousands of pupils expected to take part.

For more information visit www.bigpedal.org.uk

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The Big Pedal starts on Monday 20 March 2017.
The Big Pedal starts on Monday 20 March 2017.
Factfile
  • The Big Pedal 2017 runs from Monday 20 to Friday 31 March 2017.
  • The Big Pedal is a national challenge to get more young people cycling and scooting to school.
 
Isle of Wight, UK