Adele and her family upgraded their cycles and now walk or cycle for many of their day-to-day journeys. With school term due to begin again, PhD researcher, Adele explains what the family has learned from switching to an active school run.
Adele Lidderdale and her family walk or cycle for many of their day-to-day journeys in Orkney. Credit: Sustrans/McAteer Photography
We recently made the decision to switch from two petrol cars to an electric vehicle, which we use for longer trips, along with upgrading our bikes which has enabled us as a family to cycle for a lot of our day-to-day journeys.
I have an e-bike which I got through the cycle to work scheme, while my husband, Rikki and son, Remy have pushbikes.
A typical journey would be taking eight-year-old Remy to primary school, about a mile and a half each way.
We've found multiple benefits of switching to an active school run.
Remy has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and he can find it difficult to concentrate during busy school days.
But we have found that the active journey into school helps him settle more quickly into the classroom.
It really helps calm him down, and it’s the same on the way home.
The active journey to school is a space for him to unwind and destress as well as getting physical exercise.
It has made it easy to add a wellbeing component into the daily routine.
At that time there are obviously other families who are walking and cycling as well.
We use that social time on the way to and from school to catch up with other parents about school and other things.
We find those 20 minutes or so very beneficial.
The Lidderdale family in Arcadia Park, Kirkwall. Credit: Sustrans/McAteer Photography
The importance of infrastructure to increase safety for those walking, wheeling and cycling
They make it easier for people to access green space and nature.
We tend to use the pathways that have been developed for walking and cycling in order to bypass the main roads as often as possible.
These help us feel more confident about making the journey because sometimes it can seem a little daunting to hop on to the road.
For example, Papdale Park features in our active school run.
You can see that it's very well used.
It's quite family-oriented and has changed things for the better because before we would exclusively have been on the main road.
Having safer infrastructure, such as the cycling and walking paths, makes it more convenient for children that have additional support needs, and that is beneficial from our point of view.
However, we still need to use a main road for part of the school run.
At this time there's quite a lot of competition on the road and it can be dangerous with vehicles.
Just as the kids are going to school is when the roads tend to be their busiest, so the more safe paths we have and the more connected they are, the better.
What more can be done to help people who walk, wheel and cycle feel safe?
Increasing the number of segregated lanes so there's distinct space for walking and cycling would make it easier.
I think there's this sense that vehicles have priority on the roads and the roads can be quite narrow and everybody is sharing this space at the busiest times.
Where the bike routes and walking routes exist, you don’t have that competition.
I think raising awareness and communicating the benefits to people would also help.
I’d like people to understand why parents would want to be cycling on the roads with their children and the benefits of it, to address the perception some people might have that bikes are a nuisance.
Arcadia Park in Kirkwall, which was funded by Sustrans Scotland’s Places for Everyone and ArtRoots programmes. Credit: Sustrans/McAteer Photography
A positive impact on wellbeing
It’s also important to mention the wellbeing and health impacts of walking and cycling for everyday journeys such as the school run.
It's not just the physical exercise that studies have shown is important, but where you do the exercise.
When you are out in green space, that has a significantly improved impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing than say, walking around in an urban space or using a treadmill.
So you are getting that added benefit of free, easy exercise that’s more impactful than other forms of exercise which cost money.
I would urge people to try it, even for one or two journeys a week.
We have found using bicycles is more convenient for short trips that using a car, because you don’t have to worry about navigating car parks, and it’s nice to have family time rather than rushing here and there.
E-bikes make it more accessible for people who don’t feel that they are fit to cycle, but you don’t have to have one.
It can be very cheap to pick a bike up second-hand from a local marketplace, which is great for sustainability as well.