Joanna Rowsell Shand, the two times Olympic gold medallist cyclist, is encouraging children in schools across the North East to join The Big Pedal 2017 – a national challenge to get more young people cycling and scooting to school.
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.”
The proportion of children walking and cycling to school has been declining 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.
Children in the UK now lag far behind their peers in other nations for active travel. Only about 2-3% of UK children cycle to school compared to 49% of all Dutch primary school children.
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 indivdual classes as well as whole schools, with hundreds of thousands of pupils expected to take part.
Ben Merry, Behaviour Change Coordinator 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