A RECORD number of schools in Cumbria have signed up for this year’s Big Pedal, a national travel to school challenge.

A total of 30 schools across the county are taking part in the event, which aims to encourage children, parents and staff to cycle or scoot to school over the next two weeks.

Schools can record pupils’ journeys on to the Big Pedal website so they can take part in a virtual race around the country.

The top performing small and large primary schools in Cumbria will win a fun cycling session from Cyclewise, which is contracted by the county council to provide cycle training in schools.

The county’s leading secondary school will receive a guided mountain biking session for several students at Whinlatter Forest, near Keswick.

The Big Pedal is organised by national cycling charity Sustrans with support in Cumbria from the county council’s Active Travel team.

Active Travel have provided a bundle of cycling goodies for each school to award as spot prizes to recognise pupils making a special effort to get active during the challenge.

Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Transport, said: “I’m delighted so many schools are taking part in this year’s Big Pedal challenge, which is a great way to encourage everyone to think about leaving their cars at home and consider alternative ways of travelling to school.”

Wendy Nicholas, head teacher at Beetham Primary School, near Milnthorpe, said: “We are going for gold! I can’t believe what a buzz there is about the Big Pedal. Parents are transporting bikes and scooters and stopping outside the village and then cycling in. Adults are getting on their bikes too – our playground is full of bikes and scooters everywhere.

“We had 37 journeys yesterday and we have 46 today – I can’t believe it! Year 5 & 6 pupils are recording all the totals and entering the information each morning in their maths lesson – what great fun, thank you very much for getting us involved.”

A total of 17 Cumbria schools took part in the Big Pedal in 2013, making nearly 10,000 cycling and scooting journeys to school over three weeks. Schools involved last year found cycling and scooting numbers improved during the rest of the year.

Pupils are being invited to take part in a fund-raising event on the final day of this year’s challenge, on Friday March 14, when they can dress up as their favourite super hero to raise funds for Sustrans.

Sustrans says the school journey is a perfect opportunity for children to learn about their local area, develop wider social networks and gain independence. 

Encouraging children to walk, cycle and scoot will reduce congestion and pollution around the school gates. The charity says a short walk or cycle to school contributes towards the recommended hour of physical activity that children need daily.

For more information about the benefits of walking or cycling to school, visit Active Travel’s website at www.cumbria.gov.uk/activetravel