The works of the Bike Hub-funded and Sustrans-run Bike It initiative aren’t just confined to one corner of the British Isles.
Cardiff’s Bike It Officer, Tim Anfield, has been working with the schools of the city and the surrounding area since September 2010.
Two of those schools – Oakfield Primary School and Bishop Childs Primary School – took part in a ‘twinning’ ride in July, congratulating the schools’ efforts in cycling. School children and over 60 parents from both schools took part in a ‘Pedal Picnic’ including a bike ride and picnic at St Mellons’ Hendre Lake.
Before Bike It and Tim Anfield got involved with the two schools a paltry five children regularly cycled to school. Now, less than a year later, these schools regularly see between 35 and 45 children regularly eschewing the car in favour of cycling to school.
“The pedal picnic has shown how pupils and teachers have really committed themselves to cycling to school,” Anfield enthuses. “They are working really hard to create a lasting pro-cycling culture that they wish to see in their community.”
This ‘twinning’ ride is just one of many schemes and rides that have taken place as part of the Bike It programme to encourage and reward children and young families to saddle up regularly.
In fact, the Pedal Picnic is one of many rides the schools of Cardiff have taken part in. This term Bike It has opened the eyes of teachers and parents – showing how easy it is to take groups of over 30 pupils to and above 10 kilometres distance rides – something that sounds more challenging on paper than in practice. The programme saw rides take place on paths and cycle routes with some quiet road sections, largely between the hours of 10am and 2pm. The largest group involved 60 pupils but most consisted of one class-worth (30 or so pupils). Pupils from year five and six took part, as did some as young as eight.
Each ride was co-led by a teacher – trained in how to lead a ride as part of the Bike It programme.
One anticipatory ‘transition’ ride was organised from Marlborough Juniors to Cardiff High School, giving pupils a chance to learn the route to their new school before actually going. Twenty pupils took part in the ride to their new High School, supported by parents and the Cardiff Council Road Safety Team. The ride coincided with a PTA Barbecue ride to celebrate the opening of its new bike shelter, providing cover for 40 bikes.
Bike It activities haven’t just been for practical A to B reasons either – in one case a ride was organised to aid pupil studies. A ‘history and sculpture tour’ around the Taff Trail and Bute Park saw class groups from St Fagans Primary, St Francis Primary and Gabalfa Primary take part on separate occasions.
Anfield picks up the story: “I created a cycle route that passed Llandaff Cathedral, a range of bridges and park sculptures and with a lunch stop in Cardiff Castle. The route followed a range of different trails and terrains to illustrate the possibilities. For example, the group was taken along a shared use path by a main road which was then contrasted to a beautiful and peaceful riverside cycle path – they were invited to think which was the most pleasant experience and were reminded that they were part of Sustrans' work to reduce car use.”
The rides are just part of the Bike It picture, Anfield explained: “These were a culmination of work at the schools over one or two years. All schools have had several Dr Bike visits to ensure bike quality and have taken part in lots of cycle training through Welsh Cycling and Cardiff Council Road Safety.”
Sustrans works with a total of 18 schools in Cardiff in partnership with Cardiff Council.
To find out more about how industry levy Bike Hub funds Bike it programmes across the country – and a number of other ‘get bums on saddles’ initiatives – head to www.bikehub.co.uk.