School builds own tarmac cycle track

The pupils at Field End junior school in West London have their very own cycle circuit in the playground. As well as having obvious potential for delivering the first stage of Bikeability (later stages of Bikeability go out on real roads), the 340 metre circuit is being used to ween kids on cycle racing. [Click on the pix to make ’em bigger].

The official opening of Field End school’s outdoor track was attended by members of British Cycling, the London Cycling Campaign and Transport for London, who put up the £80,000 for the purpose-built facility.

Cutting the ribbon was David Rowe, Head of Borough Projects and Programmes at TfL who said of the school and its unique circuit: “It’s a fantastic set-up. We usually work with schools that deliver cycle parking or cycle training but to see something like this is absolutely fantastic. You can see what it means to the children and to their parents in terms of encouraging more cycling. It’s great to see and the more we see the better.”

The funding from TfL was crucial in constructing the 340 metre long, four metre wide circuit, but the track wouldn’t have been built without the dedication of parents, teachers, the school’s ebullient head Sheila Pikulski, and volunteers from the local cycling community.

The school, in the Borough of Hillingdon, began by encouraging pupils to walk or cycle to school and this led to setting up its own after-school cycling club in 2007. Today, the pupils aged from six to eleven years have not only a circuit on which to learn safer cycling and racing they can also take a six week cycle maintenance course to enable them to fix their own bikes. The school also has its own British Cycling qualified coach in the shape of Brian Wright, president of the Hillingdon Slipsteamers, a West London cycling club.

Field End’s Fun Cycle Club currently has 45 members which is the limit due to the required ratio of 1 coach to every 15 pupils. Not surprisingly, in a school where cycling is the new football, there is a waiting list to join the club where bronze and silver medals need to be gained before the elusive gold allows racing on the slightly undulating, smooth tarmac circuit.

Later additions to the circuit could include a pavilion, and a workshop and another classroom, creating a standalone Centre of Excellence for junior cycling in this part of London.

At the circuit opening, London Cycling Campaign’s Rosie Tharp said: “Field End Junior School has shown what you can do with a little money and a lot of optimism.”

Words and pix by Rob Lampard

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