The objective of this pilot scheme is to embed cycling into the school culture, to improve children's health and fitness and to encourage children to ride to school as a way of protecting the environment and reducing peak time congestion. The scheme will involve intensive work to promote cycling at the Eltham Green Sports College (a Greenwich secondary school) over two terms, focussing primarily on 11-12 years olds but providing supplementary activities for other children, parents, teachers and school staff.
The scheme is funded through the Department of Transport?s Cycling Project Fund, with the backing of from Neighbourhood Renewal Greenwich and the South Greenwich Regeneration Agency. The scheme is an opportunity to learn about how to encourage cycling in schools and to establish best practice, and a model that may be rolled out easily to other schools in the borough and, potentially, reproduced throughout the country. It will be monitored and evaluated by the Greenwich Environmental Management Services ? an independent environmental research agency.
The key elements of the proposed pilot are:
Why Eltham Green?
Less than 2% of pupils at Eltham Green cycle to school. The Government has set a target to quadruple the number of cycling trips by 2012. The Council is keen to promote cycling and is committed to increasing the modal share of cycling as a % of all journeys to school, by pupils of 10 years of older in pursuit of this aim. This should be possible since DfT statistics suggest that 85% of young people own cycles, though there may be a slightly lower bicycle ownership within the local area. And, there are examples in the UK where over 70% of children cycle to school. There is a clear need to establish what can be done to achieve these targets in Greenwich and to establish best practice.
Eltham Green provides the ideal testing ground as it has Sports College status and strong support from the local staff, together with a commitment from the Council. Our project has a heavy emphasis on monitoring and evaluation to establish attitudes towards cycling before and after the pilot project.
The project will help deliver a number of benefits to the local community
Regular cycling improves fitness significantly; reducing obesity, the risk of strokes, coronary heart disease (CHD), certain types of cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. The Copenhagen Heart Study (2000) concluded that those who did not cycle to work experienced a 39% higher mortality rate than those who did. There are also benefits for mental health, with evidence of reduced depression and stress, improved self-esteem and confidence in performing physical tasks.
Young people are increasingly less active - nationally 29% of boys and 43% of girls under 16 have less than 30 minutes of physical activity on most days (the daily minimum level of activity as recommended by the Health Education Authority).
Our project will involve pupils in more activity and instil the habit of cycling into their lifestyle that they can take with them to adulthood. Our launch is intended to give a clear message that cycle sport is also ?cool? and fun ? it is not an elite sport, but one that can be enjoyed by everyone, pretty much anywhere. Cycling is ideal as a form of physical activity as it can be readily included in the daily routine.
Eltham Green has special sports status, and the intention is also to generate interest and participation in cycle sport, through visits to the Manchester, Eastway and Herne Hill and Velodromes and though curriculum based activities. There are opportunities at each of these venues for the children to ?have a go?.
These Velodrome visits and the supporting programme of weekend "family rides", plus the ride to school day, are also intended to broaden the age group cycling and to encourage parents and adults on to their bikes.
Education. Schools that encourage cycling reinforce the message that health and activity is a priority for the school and research is beginning to suggest that children who are more physically active perform better in school. Cycling certainly makes children more alert and ready to face the school day than if they have been sitting in a car. Cycling to school can provide this physical activity during time that is otherwise wasted, compared with alternatives, such as visiting a gym which requires additional time, incurs a relatively significant financial cost, and is less likely to be maintained.
Environment. Cycling is environmentally friendly = the impact of the manufacture and use of bicycles is minuscule in comparison with other forms of transport. More cycle journeys and less by car means less greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and reducing noise pollution. Our project aims to tackle the ?school run? mentality, encouraging parents to leave the car at home, and to consider cycling as an alternative. Greenwich Council and the Home and Road Safety Team are already consulting on the installation of supporting cycle to school infrastructure, including a cycle path in Middle Park Avenue.
Crime. Research sponsored by the Social Exclusion Unit shows that where cycling is common, there is a reduced fear of crime. This improved perception of security derives from the presence of accessible people on the streets and helps to improve the vitality of the urban environment. Cycling also provides independent mobility for children, widening their horizons, boosting confidence and reducing ?boredom? factor which can often result in increased wear and tear on their immediate surroundings, for example through graffiti or vandalism. It is an inexpensive diversionary activity, which doesn?t need huge levels of adult organisation or supervision.
Our project offers other benefits too:
Finally, our project is innovative and "joined up". It brings together central government, local government, the school, the voluntary sector and the local community to see what can be achieved together to tackle some very pressing issues ? ill-health and obesity, air quality and pollution, congestion and environmental damage. It?s an opportunity to experiment and learn what can be done. The lessons can be applied across the borough and beyond.
For Greenwich Cyclists