Network of cycling and walking groups launch ‘Get To School On Your Own Fuel’ campaign!

Cycling campaign groups from all over Ireland – members of Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network — today issued a call to parents, teachers, schools, sports clubs, local authorities and other groups and individuals to support a National Cycle / Walk / Scoot to School promotion to help families familiarise themselves with their school routes. It will run from Saturday 15th to 29nd August.

All through summer 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, children have been out cycling in their local neighbourhoods, going to parks, meeting friends, and enjoying the freedom and fresh air. With the return to classrooms in September, cycling and walking groups around the country are highlighting the opportunities for more children and students to cycle, walk, scoot or skate safely to school. This aligns with guidance from the Department of Education & Skills in which they will be supporting the National Transport Authority “in promoting various alternative means for children to get to school in a safe way, including walking and cycling and more generally in reducing the impact on the public transport system of school reopening” [1].

Key to getting more children to get back to school ‘on their own fuel’ is the familiarisation of routes from home to school. Cycle campaign groups around the country will be running a range of local events to practise school runs over the coming fortnight, and can supply written guidelines for any interested groups that want to organise events. Working together with experienced cyclists, each family can find the routes safest and most convenient for them. School-children of all ages, primary and secondary, can participate. Ideally they will link with other families, with teachers, parent associations, and with local organisations to test and plan the safest routes from home to school for cycling and walking.

Promotions will also take place in many locations, with opportunities to get bicycles checked by qualified mechanics, as well as taking part in a national scavenger hunt competition (teams can register at www.cyclist.ie/school). Practice runs can be held on any days that suit the participants between 15th and 29nd August. To date, events have been scheduled for Clonakilty, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny, Bandon, Sligo, Wexford and Dublin.

Information on route planning, how to maintain your bike, guidance on locking your bike correctly and details on the Scavenger Hunt competition will be provided on the day by each local event organiser.

Speaking on behalf of the national cycling campaign Cyclist.ie, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama said:

“there is no better time for children and parents to trial new, healthier, active travel ways to get to school. We have all long suffered the traffic jams, polluted air and general chaos of the school run by car. We will help people check their bikes over, plan a fun and safe route to school and demonstrate how to lock your bike correctly”.

“During the pandemic, young people have really enjoyed getting back on their bikes and these school practice runs will give them and their parents the confidence and impetus to use cycling and walking as the new normal way, the most fun and healthy way, to get to school happy and ready to learn”, said Ó Tuama.

Allison Roberts, a spokesperson for the Clonakilty Bicycle Festival, said

“Following on from the government’s urging of people to choose walking and cycling over other modes of transport, we want to help people make the first step. There has never been a better time for Local Authorities to accelerate the introduction of new measures to make ‘active travel’ as easy and as safe as possible. We are in a changed world, and we need to see changes on our roads and streets to make cycling safer all day, everyday for all ages and abilities.”

The network of campaign groups called on schools to provide space for secure bicycle parking. They will be contacting all local authorities and the National Transport Authority with a request to support and fund this initiative where possible.

As set out in the Vision for Cycling in Ireland (http://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/), cycling groups want to see all agencies and organisations support the installation of safer, segregated cycle routes, remove barriers to cycling and walking through parks and housing estates, and develop direct routes away from motorised traffic. The groups will also be contacting all local authorities to ask that they implement as a matter of urgency 30 km/h speed limits in all urban areas especially around schools.

REFERENCES / NOTES

[1] See p19 of “Planning for reopening schools in line with the Roadmap for reopening society and business” published by the Department of Education and Skills –  https://www.education.ie/en/covid-19/planning-for-reopening-schools.pdf

[2] A Vision for Cycling in Rural Ireland. https://cyclist.ie/ruralvision/

[3] We can provide high quality photos to go with any articles being produced if/as required.

[4] Cyclist.ie’s Get to School on your own Fuel webpage – https://cyclist.ie/school/

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