Pontrhydyfen Primary School in Port Talbot, Wales was the winner of The Big Pedal this year, but, as corny as it sounds, the real winner was the world of cycling. Don’t believe it? Well read on...
In case you missed it, for three weeks in March schools across the nation took part in the stage-by-stage Big Pedal bike race. School pupils, teachers and parents clocked up miles by riding to and from school, in competition with other schools in Britain. The results were fed into Sustrans’ super computer and the school with the most miles made by bike won out – enter Port Talbot’s Pontrhydyfen Primary School.
Along the way an impressive number of bike journeys – 990,550 in fact – were made in the three weeks as part of The Big Pedal. The fact that those journeys saved school parents a combined £250k in petrol costs is besides the point for the bike industry, of course.
While even an optimist wouldn’t claim every one of the 990k bicycle journeys wouldn’t have happened had Big Pedal not existed, it would take a gargantuan effort of head numbing cynicism to claim the initiative hadn’t caused a good number of extra bike journeys – and all by incentivising children to cycle with prizes and good natured competition.
Organiser Sustrans was pleased with the reaction to the project, and the potential cycling legacy it has left schools with.
“We were amazed at the response from schools, teachers, pupils and parents; it was a hugely successful race,” enthuses Paul Osborne, Sustrans school travel director. He tells BikeBiz: “We’ve had lots of positive feedback from schools and parents, and plenty of Bike It officers have remarked that cycling levels in schools that took part in the race have remained high, even though the race has finished.”
Pitting schools against each other to see which can notch up bike miles is not a new concept – Sustrans ran the Virtual Bike Ride last year, on a smaller scale than Big Pedal, but racking up an nevertheless impressive 288,201 journeys by bike. This year the crucial difference was funding from the cycle industry’s own Bike Hub fund.
Osborne explains how the grant from the trade affected the project: “The Bike Hub contribution to the Big Pedal was invaluable – without it we wouldn’t have been able to offer many of the materials that we sent to schools.
“Bike Hub’s generosity enabled us to promote the event beyond Bike It schools, particularly those signed up to Bikeability cycle training. We were also able to develop the website and provide large wall charts, giving Bike Hub and Sustrans a visible presence in all participating schools.”
While the school winners are still enjoying their prizes – including performances from the M.A.D cycle stunt team, bike storage and repair kits from Fisher Outdoor and Weldtite, Sustrans is shaping up next years event, which could yet include a school versus workplace twist.
Osbourne explains: “We would like to build on the success of this year’s race and persuade even more schools to get involved. We more than doubled participation this year, and there is no reason for us not to do the same again. We may consider a competition between schools in different size categories and explore how schools can challenge local workplaces.”
Would grown-up workplace staff be able to match enthusiastic kids who respond well to a cycle challenge?
Would it generate more bike journeys nationwide? You’ll be able to find out in the Big Pedal round two...