Modeshift STARS accreditation regional awards announced

In 2015, 347 schools nationally have achieved Modeshift STARS accreditation in recognition of their efforts to encourage their pupils to travel to school in greener, healthier and safer ways, and now the very best of those schools has been announced.

Six Schools of the Region have been recognised for their outstanding achievements in increasing levels of sustainable and active travel.

From the East of England, Godmanchester Primary School from Cambridgeshire worked particularly hard to promote cycling to school which resulted in a 50% increase in numbers cycling from 20% to 31%. In the South West, Haydonleigh Primary School of Swindon are able to boast over 25% of pupils cycling or scooting to school. Meanwhile in the South East, St Bede Church of England Primary were the first school to achieve the Gold level of Modeshift STARS in Hampshire and have recently added sustainable travel to part of their School Improvement Plan meaning that they are committed to sustainable travel for the long term.

Further north, the Midlands School of the Region title went to St John’s (CE)A) Primary in Stoke where who have achieved a 21.3% reduction in car use over the last 3-years. For the North East, the Federation of Abbey Schools in Darlington took the award where the percentage of pupils travelling by car has fallen to 13.1% from 35.3% in 2011/12. Finally, the Yorkshire & The Humber Region award went to Rawdon Littlemoor Primary School of Leeds who have reduced the number of pupils travelling to school by car from 45.9% to 27.4% in just two years.

The six Schools of the Region will now be invited to a National Awards Event in March 2016 at which the National Awards Panel will decide upon the National School of the Year.

Ross Butcher, Chair of Modeshift, said: “The STARS scheme recognises schools that have demonstrated excellence in supporting cycling, walking and other forms of sustainable travel. The schools that have been recognised as Schools of the Region have achieved way beyond what is expected of them and as such, are able to demonstrate some incredible results. They are a shining example to all of us and prove that we really can make a difference to the journey to school.”

Get school kids on bikes, urge health experts

Today’s children are not as active as they should be, reveals a (not surprising) report from UK Active. In ‘Generation Inactive’ the health body recommends routine testing of children’s fitness. Primary schools should test pupils’ fitness in the same way as subjects like maths and English to stem the tide of physical inactivity threatening to overwhelm the NHS, concludes the report.

‘Generation Inactive’ highlights findings from a series of Freedom of Information requests that found 43 percent of primary schools recorded the length of time children actually spend being physically active in PE lessons.

The report, which has received backing from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, highlights how ever-rising rates of physical inactivity in children could lead to today’s generation of children becoming a huge drain on the NHS in years to come as they develop chronic conditions associated with inactivity ranging from diabetes to cancers.

Only half of seven year olds are meeting the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day. Previous research by UK Active has shown that physical inactivity is responsible for more deaths than obesity or smoking in England, and is estimated to cost public services and the wider economy around £20bn per year. Inactive people are also significantly more likely to suffer from depression, and dementia than physically active adults.

The report describes the physical inactivity pandemic as a ”ticking time-bomb under the shared pledges of all political parties to maintain a NHS free at the point of need”.

UK Active outlines a series of recommendations it says provide a pathway towards solving the physical inactivity pandemic in schools – where good and bad exercise habits learned at a young age can carry on into later life. They include integrating physical activity throughout the school day to ensure children achieve the 60 minutes of daily exercise.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, UK Active’s Chair and Britain’s most decorated Paralympian, said:

“We are calling for a focus on a ‘whole school approach’. This means looking at how children travel to and from school, the manner in which they integrate activity as simple as standing in lessons, the development of more effective and structured use of play time opportunities and the provision of pre- and post school activities.”

Professor Russell Viner, Officer for Health Promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

“At a time where children should be at their most active, it’s concerning that half of seven year olds are not doing the recommended one hour of physical activity that’s advised each day – the Generation Inactive report is a welcome reminder that more must be done to improve the health of our nation’s children.

“A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t just mean a child could be overweight, it is an issue that can affect a child’s entire life, from poor concentration levels impacting on life chances post school, and increased risk of emotional and wellbeing issues like depression, right through to developing life-long medical conditions like type two diabetes – all of which can have dire consequences if not managed properly.

“We already know that a healthy child is much more likely to go on to be a healthy adult, so it is important that we set children on the right trajectory from an early age and continue to encourage healthy lifestyles as they move through life. That means instilling positive behaviour early such as ensuring parents are supported to be healthy before and during pregnancy, teaching children about healthy eating in school and working with local authorities to ensure roads are safe for children to cycle, scoot or walk to school by implementing 20mph speed limits in built up areas.”

Former Children’s Commissioner for England Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, said:

“Whether walking, cycling or being active in and out of PE lessons, providing children with opportunities to be active throughout the day, before, during and after school, is key to engaging even the most disengaged children.”

Jason Torrance, Policy Director for Sustrans, said:

“The news that half of seven-year-olds don’t get the hour of daily exercise recommended by health experts is sad, but not entirely surprising.

“The easiest way for children and their families to get physically active is for cycling, walking or scooting to school to be the norm. Although most children live within walking or cycling distance to school, less than half walk and very few cycle. Creating safe routes to school has the added bonus of reducing congestion on the roads, cutting pollution and saving money on car running costs.”

UK Active is a not-for-profit health body for the physical activity sector, with over 3,500 members from activity providers to major consumer brands, training facilities and equipment manufacturers. Its tagline is “getting more people, more active, more often”.

Economic report says increasing cycle use would generate £248bn

An economic report produced by academics from Leeds University has found that increasing cycle use in England would pay for itself many times over. Commissed by the CTC, the report makes a strong economic case for investing in cycling.

“The Economic Cycle – Quantifying the benefits of getting England Cycling” found that getting more people to use cycles for transportation would generate £248bn in economic benefits by 2050. The report was written by Fiona Crawford of the Institute of Transport Studies at Leeds University and the geography department’s Dr Robin Lovelace.

The academics were tasked with quantifying the benefits of cycling if the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s “Get Britain Cycling” report were met, in comparison with the targets set in the Government’s draft “Cycling Delivery Plan”. The Get Britain Cycling report recommended an increase of cycle use from less than 2 per cent of all journeys to 10 per cent by 2025 and 25 per cent by 2050. (This is in comparison to the CDP which merely proposes a doubling of journeys by 2025.)

The report found that meeting the parliamentary Get Britain Cycling report’s targets would yield annual benefits in 2050 worth £42bn in today’s money. The cumulative benefits would be worth £248bn between 2015 and 2050 even taking account of the fact that long term benefits are worth less than those achieved in the shorter term.

By contrast, the Government’s Cycling Delivery Plan would only generate annual benefits of £6.4bn in 2050, and ’discounted’ cumulative benefits of £46.4bn. These economic benefits are generated chiefly through increased physical fitness in the population, but also reduced congestion and absenteeism, improved air quality and other areas.

CTC chief executive Paul Tuohy said:

“Every day it seems a new report is issued that states the UK through an increasing sedentary existence is eating its way into an obesity epidemic that will break the NHS and cost billions to the economy.

“The Economic Cycle report proves conclusively that cycling can make a real difference to waist-lines and the economy – £248bn worth of difference. However this can only be achieved if ambitious targets to encourage cycle growth are set and there is a proper long term funding strategy in place.

“CTC has joined its cycling and walking coalition partners to call on MPs to support Dr Julian Huppert MP’s amendment to the Infrastructure Bill which would create a legally binding Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. Such a strategy will make the possibility of cycling’s massive return on investment less of a dream and increasingly a reality.”

London’s “quietways” to be created for TfL by Sustrans

Transport for London has awarded Sustrans a multi-million pound delivery contract to create the rollout of the “quiet ways” network across London. Quietways will give cyclists pleasant, back-street alternatives to busy main roads, with the first opening in May next year.

Construction is about to start on the first two routes, which will run from central London to Greenwich and Hackney, with a later extension to Walthamstow. Five more routes are at the design stage and more than twenty will be delivered, or in progress, by 2016.

Sustrans has been awarded a three year contract by TfL to help deliver the £120 million network. The work will be carried out in partnership with the local boroughs and other partners whose roads they will use. Every London borough will be served by the Quietways.

The charity will be working with four partners to deliver the contract – innovators in Dutch cycle design, Royal Haskoning; specialists in urban design and cycle design best practice in the UK, Phil Jones Associates; leaders in inclusive cycling, Wheels for Wellbeing; and road safety experts, Local Transport Projects.

London Mayor, Boris Johnson, said:

“If you would love to hop on a bike but feel intimidated by busier roads, these Quietway routes will be perfect, connecting parks, backstreets and waterways to create secret passages through London. They will get you where you need to go on a route you might not have known existed until we showed you. They will make cycling much more accessible for ordinary people, in their ordinary clothes, revealing some of London’s hidden gems along the way.”

Unlike the old London Cycle Network, Quietways will be direct and clearly signed, mostly on the road itself. Because they are on lower-traffic roads, they will be largely unsegregated. The main interventions on the vast majority of the network will be waymarking, surfacing improvements where necessary, removing barriers such as chicanes and improving the flow of the route.

However, where directness demands the Quietway briefly join a main road, full segregation and direct crossing points will be provided, “wherever possible”, said Sustrans, adding Quietways will be particularly suited to new cyclists.

Work on the first route, which will run from Waterloo to Greenwich, is about to start, creating a predominantly backstreet cycling route through Borough, Bermondsey and Deptford. Junctions at major roads will be redesigned to help cyclists and a brand new cycle path created. This will follow the railway line from South Bermondsey station to Surrey Canal Road to the north of Millwall football club (subject to final planning permissions).

Work to deliver the second route, from Bloomsbury to Hackney, will begin early next year and see a direct route created through local parks.

Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL, said:

“Cycling is becoming more and more common place in our city, and we know many others would like to do so. The network of Quietways we will be introducing will open more options up for new and infrequent cyclists to take to the streets using less busy roads. This will further help shift more journeys away from cars, particularly in the outer boroughs.”

The Big Pedal school challenge returns for 2015

The UKs largest inter-school cycling – and scooting – competition, The Big Pedal, is set to return in 2015. The challenge is organised by Sustrans and funded by the Bicycle Association on behalf of the cycle industry through the Bike Hub levy scheme.

The Big Pedal, registration for which is now open, runs March 2nd – 20th and is open to nurseries, primary and secondary schools and challenges them to compete against one another to make the most journeys to school by bike and scooter over 15 days. Last year over 1,500 schools signed up to take part and pupils, teachers, parents, and siblings made over a million journeys to school on their bikes and scooters in just 10 days.

Ben Merry, Programme Development Officer at Sustrans said:

“The Big Pedal is fun, inclusive and it helps schools to encourage whole families to lead more active lives, as well as reducing car traffic and pollution around the school gates.

“Although the competition runs for three weeks, it has a lasting effect on the way that the school community travel to school; last year 76% of schools who took part in the Big Pedal said that pupils continued to cycle and scoot to school following the event.”

By signing up to The Big Pedal schools receive a wall-chart to record their progress, and there are a range of other support resources available in the teachers section of the Sustrans website. Winning schools will receive prizes including bike and scooter stunt shows and equipment.

Phillip Darnton, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association, said:

“Many youngsters love to ride bikes and scooters, and they do it because it’s fun. The Big Pedal shows children that cycling to school is not only fun, but that it can also help you to stay healthy, and helps reduce traffic around the school gates too.

“The Big Pedal, now in its 5th year, is three weeks of fun – and a lot more besides. I hope that schools will sign up right now and be ready for The Big pedal when it starts on March 2nd.”