Pupils in Calderdale and Kirklees are gearing up for spring with a cycling skills boost, thanks to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s £60m CityConnect programme aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bike or on foot.
CityConnect’s Bike Friendly Schools scheme, which is targeted at schools on or near to CityConnect routes, provides grants, support and advice to help more pupils and teachers make more journeys by bike.
In partnership with Bradford-based BeCycling, the CityConnect team work with a school to help them make improvements, such as providing new bike and scooter parking as well as increasing pupils cycling skills.
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From learning to ride for the first time to making the journey to secondary school by bike, more than 3,500 pupils from 21 schools have received support through the scheme.
Starting in February 2017, the scheme has previously focused on schools near CityConnect’s flagship scheme, the Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway - a 23km segregated cycle route connecting two of Yorkshire’s major cities.
The team is working in new areas to coincide with new routes being built and existing routes being improved as part of the CityConnect programme.
In Calderdale the team will be focussing on schools along the Calder Valley, based on their proximity to the Rochdale Canal towpath improvements between Sowerby Bridge and Hebden Bridge.
This includes Calder High School in Mytholmroyd and Riverside Junior School in Hebden Bridge.
Councillor Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said: “In parts of West Yorkshire, as few as one in five households have access to a bike and as a consequence many children may never have the opportunity to learn to cycle.
“By ensuring schools can train those children who may not have the opportunity to learn at home, this scheme is helping make cycling a viable option for more of our residents, regardless of age or circumstance.
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“We know cycling is a great way to get around and have fun, while also enjoying the outdoors. Encouraging more of us to travel by bike or on foot not only boosts people’s health and saves individuals money, it also brings wider environmental and economic benefits, which is why we want to make cycling and walking a natural choice for short, everyday journeys, including the school run.”
Burnley Road Academy, Mytholmroyd, is CityConnect’s first Bike Friendly School in Calderdale.
Last autumn the CityConnect team provided free training for pupils from years one through to four, teaching children to use a balance bike, learn to ride and improve their cycling skills.
Ted Theaker, Deputy Head at Burnley Road Academy, said: "From boosting physical activity to instilling good travel habits that last a life time, we know encouraging more of our pupils to cycle, scoot and walk brings real benefits.
"There’s a real opportunity for people to travel in different ways due to the school’s proximity to the canal towpath, particularly for those coming from Hebden Bridge.
"Being involved in the Bike Friendly Schools scheme has been a really positive experience, allowing us to open up these opportunities to more of our pupils.
"Some children were a bit wobbly in the morning but by then end of the training every single child in every single class could ride properly, and had improved their cycling skills, as well as their understanding of road safety.
"Seeing the excitement and pride on the children’s faces, and those of the trainers and teachers, was just wonderful."