Every week is Bike to School Week

By Ben Merry,
children parking bikes in bike shed

The school journey is a perfect opportunity for children to cycle, scoot or walk to school.

graphic showing 1 in 3 cars on road is due to school run
graphic showing rates of cycling to school are 2% in the UK and 49% in the Netherlands

As our 2017 Bike to School Week (5-9 June) drew to a close last Friday, Bike Week (10-18 June) was just about to get underway.

You may or may not have known about these events, though millions do and a fair number celebrate or mark the occasions in some way.

Our Bike to School Week is a time for inspiration - we hope it has helped pupils, parents and teachers across the UK kick-start active travel habits and switch to cycling, scooting or walking for the school journey.

We believe, however, that at all the schools we work with, every week is a bike week.

That’s why our guide to planning Bike to School Week is aimed at those not yet receiving support from one of our officers and includes a six-week planner to ensure a successful event. It’s also why we see Bike to School Week as something to be run at any time. That could be once a year, once a term, every month or whatever a school can manage.

When schools and parents see not just how much pupils want to cycle and how much they love it, but also how easy it can be, it builds the sort of momentum that in a generation might get us closer to the cycling rates we’ve seen in the past – or that places such as Denmark have now. 

It goes without saying that investment in cycling and walking infrastructure is absolutely crucial if we are to see this kind of change. 

Policy- makers have begun to recognise this and we have seen promising progress, most recently with the publication of England’s first ever Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. The challenge now, of course, is to deliver change where it matters: on the ground.  

The numbers speak for themselves

More than half a million pupils from nearly 1,700 UK schools registered to take part in our Big Pedal event, which took place in March. 

During the 10-day challenge participants travelled almost three million miles by bike and scooter – that’s nearly 119 trips around the world – and saved almost 728 tonnes, or nearly 55 million balloons-worth, of CO2 being emitted by cars. 

Nearly 55 million calories (the equivalent of almost 227,000 donuts) were burned and with more than 75,000 gallons of fuel not being used on the school run, parents also saved over £400,000 on petrol. 

This demonstrates what can be achieved.

The challenge ahead

We know the proportion of children walking and cycling to school has been declining in England since 1995, with the number being driven to primary school increasing each year - as many as one in four cars on the road during the morning peak are on the school run.

We know children in the UK now lag far behind their peers in other nations for active travel. Only about 2-3% of UK children cycle to school compared to 49% of all Dutch primary school children.

We know the average primary school journey is 1.6 miles - a distance that can be cycled, scooted or walked as an easy way of building more physical activity into our busy lives.

And we know cycling, scooting and walking is part of the solution to many of today’s challenges – from childhood obesity and physical inactivity to air pollution and congestion.

The next step

If we can do it for Bike to School Week or for The Big Pedal then we can do it every week.

Run a Bike to School Week whenever you want or join in next week. Then run another Bike to School Week, and another. 

And a few more, until you realise you aren’t even running them, they are running themselves and as we aspire to, every week is a Bike to School Week (and a walk and scooter week for that matter).

Google “Car Week” or “Driving Week”. There isn’t one. One day, if we have all been successful, we may not find a Bike to School Week either – for all the right reasons, we won’t need to.

Download our guide to Increasing Active Travel to School