Olympic cyclist backs Sustrans big school challenge

Joanna  Rowsell Shand at the post box painted gold in honour of her gold medal at the olympics 2012. Pic: Chris Gray
Joanna Rowsell Shand at the post box painted gold in honour of her gold medal at the olympics 2012. Pic: Chris Gray

Schools across Scotland are being invited to get involved in The Big Pedal 2017 – a UK-wide challenge to get more young people cycling and scooting to school, backed by two times Olympic gold medallist cyclist Joanna Rowsell Shand.

The Big Pedal 2017, which runs from Monday 20 to Friday 31 March, will see pupils, teachers and parents across the UK leave their cars at home and get on their bikes and scooters for their journeys to and from school.

Powered 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.

During the 10 days participating schools will compete with one another to make the most journeys by bike or scooter.

This year’s theme is ‘Around the world in 10 days’, with pupils tracking their progress on a map of the world, learning about the countries and cities they pass through on their way.

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.”

In Scotland, the most recent and extensive survey of modes of travel to school found that nearly half of all school pupils travel actively to schools, either walking, cycling or scooting. This is has been the case since 2009.

The percentage of pupils who report that they normally scoot or skate to school in 2015 is the highest level ever reported across all years of the survey, at 2.9%.

Across all pupils in Scotland, the percentage of pupils who normally cycle to school is at a high of 3.5%. This percentage was also reported in 2013. This is slightly higher than the UK average of 2-3%.

However, children both in Scotland and throughout the UK lag behind their peers in other nations when it comes to cycling. For example, 49% of all Dutch primary school children cycle to school.

Last year more than 1,500 schools right across the UK signed up to take part in the Big Pedal 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.

Ben Merry, behaviour change co-ordinator for Education at Sustrans, 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% of schools that took part in the Big Pedal said pupils continued to cycle and scoot to school following the event.”

For schools unable to take part in the main challenge there is also a one-day version, which can include cycling and scooting activities in the school day as well as on the journey to school. To celebrate the finale of the challenge there is also the option to join Sustrans superhero fundraising day.

All schools will be entered into daily prize draws for rewards, including bike and BMX stunt shows, and equipment if more than 15% of a school cycle or scoot on each day of the challenge.

Ask your child’s school to sign up to The Big Pedal 2017. For more information visit www.bigpedal.org.uk