100,000 primary school children are gearing up for national cycle race

On March 1, 2010, over 100,000 pupils, from 550 primary schools across the UK have begun a gruelling, 5224 mile bike challenge, in a bid to increase cycling levels amongst children.

Sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, will invite schools to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the National Cycle Network by travelling almost half of its 12,000 miles without ever leaving their local area.

During the month-long race pupils, parents and teachers clock up mileage points each time they cycle to school. Each of these short local trips is awarded a set amount of miles, contributing to the school’s virtual journey around the UK . The results are fed into a central database, on the race website, where the school’s total mileage is then calculated and its national position verified. This allows schools to directly monitor their progress against their competitors. The first school to collect the total 5224 mileage is declared winner.

Recent research from the Department for Biological Sciences, at Essex University , has shown that the fittest children are those that cycle to school. With rising levels of obesity plaguing the country, sustainable transport charity Sustrans is working to encourage to children to live healthier, more active lifestyles.

The study showed that boys who cycled to school were 30 per cent more likely to be fit but there was a dramatic difference among female cyclists, who were seven times more likely to reach the minimum fitness standard than girls who were driven to school. http://www.essex.ac.uk/news/event.aspx?e_id=1264

Around 100,000 children from the country will get the chance to be involved in the race, which aims to inspire and encourage pupils, parents and teachers to cycle on a regular basis.

Sustrans Project Manager, Mike Madin says, “The Virtual Bike Race acts as a great way for whole school communities to join together as they take on schools from across the country. The most important part will be to show pupils, parents and teachers how easy it is to choose two wheels, instead of four, for the journey to school.

“It is vital that we give young people across the country the opportunity to travel in ways which are healthy, sustainable and fun. Cycling to school has so many benefits for pupils such as improved health, confidence and concentration as well as the obvious benefits for the environment they will grow up in.”

There are some great prizes up for grabs; for the national winning school the M.A.D. Mountain Bike Display Team will spend a day performing amazing bike handling tricks and skills at the school, whilst seven regional runner-ups will receive a work stand and fully kitted out toolbox, provided by Madison, the UK’s leading distributor of bicycle parts and accessories, and bike helmets, courtesy of Nutcase.

Sustrans works with over 443 schools across the country to help children overcome whatever it is that is preventing them from cycling to school. Participating schools across England have seen levels of cycling treble within a year– bucking the trend in declining numbers of children cycling to school. Nationally, the Bike It project is funded by Cycling England, and the cycle industry through the Bike Hub.

Source: Sustrans