Two local primary schools are taking part in this year’s Sustrans ‘The Big Pedal’.
The Big Pedal is running for two weeks, ten school days, and the focus of the campaign is to get children using their bikes and scooters and even walking to get to school.
Sustrans is a national campaign group aimed at encouraging us all to use more sustainable forms of transport and they see The Big Pedal as a way of doing just that by sending the message to primary school age children that little change to our life style – like walking or cycling rather than going by car – can make a big difference. The campaign talks directly to the children involved about air pollution and how using their bikes can reduce that pollution and improve the quality of the air that we breathe with the long term benefits to health that will bring.
Locally Sandown and West St Leonards primaries have signed up for The Big Pedal, children are travelling to school using scooters and bikes and as part of the campaign some of those from West St Leonards have gone on bike rides to the pier as well as learning road safety skills to help keep them safe and learning practical skills like how to mend a puncture.
West St Leonards says on its website that it is ‘proud to be a Bike It school’ and it has already achieved a Sustrans bronze award for encouraging the school community to choose to travel in more active and sustainable ways. Bike It, which is entirely separate from the Big Pedal, is a longer term campaign aimed at increasing levels of walking, scooting and cycling to school. It involves having members of staff who are ‘Bike It Champions’ and a group of children in school who are the ‘Bike Crew’. The Bike Crew meet to discuss ways to encourage more children to cycle and scoot to school.
But as far as The Big Pedal is concerned there is a competitive element to it too. Each day of the challenge schools compete to see who can record the greatest proportion of their pupils, staff and parents cycling or scooting to school. A school’s best five days will determine their final position, but they can log journeys on all ten days of the campaign. The results are published each day on https://bigpedal.org.uk/ The Big Pedal website.
Round the world cyclist Mark Beaumont has become the face of The Big Pedal. Mark cycled round the world in 78 days and has been taking about how he suffered in certain parts of the world where air pollution was bad. He tells the story of how he developed a serious chest infection while travelling through built-up areas of Russia where pollution was high and air quality poor – it’s a very clear demonstration, say the organisers of the campaign, of the adverse effects pollution and poor air quality can have on health.