Local cycling coach starts Bicycle Bus to encourage children to cycle to school
Local cycling coach, Simon Storey is leading by example by starting a ‘Bicycle Bus’ to encourage children to cycle to school in Whitnash. A bicycle bus is when a lead cyclist picks up children and parents along a planned route at predetermined points and the group cycles to school together.
The scheme started during the first lockdown in 2020 when Simon attended a webinar hosted by British Cycling about how to start a Bicycle Bus and thought it was something he could try in his local area of Warwick Gates to his daughter’s school. The Bicycle Bus is now servicing 3 local schools in Whitnash, St Joseph’s Catholic primary school, Briar Hill infant school and St Margaret’s C of E junior school and is getting lots of supportive comments from local residents.
Simon who lives in Heathcote Park, is a father of 4, a keen cyclist and also a British cycling coach at Stratford juniors cycling club decided to start the Bicycle Bus after learning that over half of all car journeys are under 5 miles, and nearly 50% of school run journeys are taken by car but less than 2% of children cycle to school. Couple this with the obesity epidemic and the physical and mental health issues facing our children, a Bicycle Bus seemed a natural solution.
After talking to numerous parents locally and nationally, some of the barriers to cycling to school include lack of cycling infrastructure, safety on the roads and confidence on the road.
Simon Storey said “Since the inaugural Bicycle Bus started there have been 25 trips with 10 – 16 people regularly on the Bicycle Bus taking an active travel option many of whom have chosen to ditch their car to do so.
“In the process, we are taking cars off the road making it easier and safer to ride, helping to improve air quality around schools, helping to reduce dangerous and inconsiderate parking, and improving families physical and mental health.”
“We wear hi-viz vests and ride in a safe and controlled manner learnt when I went on a ride leaders course. We are very grateful to Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership who are providing free bicycle road safety items including hi vis vests, hi vis straps, and cycle lights, to make sure children and parents can be easily seen on the roads. “
PCSO 6104 Steven Sample from Whitnash Safer Neighbourhood Team said “The Bicycle Bus has our full support and we will be joining it on Friday 26 November to try to generate some more interest in children joining the Bicycle Bus along with their parents. We have also managed to source some free hi vis bicycle road safety items from Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership to give out to those taking part.
“If we can get more children to join the Bus it will help with the congestion around the local schools. I contacted Simon after seeing a post on Facebook and after many years of Patrolling outside Whitnash schools dealing with parking issues and implementing other initiatives I thought it would be a great opportunity for myself and PCSO Charlesworth to go along on Friday 26 November 2021. “
Kate Castle, Senior Road Safety Officer at Warwickshire County Council said “One of our Road Safety Education Teams’ priorities is to promote and raise awareness of the benefits of safe and active travel across Warwickshire. We work with several schools to support and encourage parents and carers to leave the car at home and travel actively for the journey to and from school.
“It is great to see the local community, families and schools taking a positive and encouraging approach to active travel. Travelling actively to school will help reduce traffic and congestion, improve air quality, and improve the physical health and well-being of all involved.”
Simon’s initiative does not stop there, he is also campaigning to keep the local cycling infrastructure in good order and to extend and improve it. He says “The government has recently announced plans to improve cycling infrastructure as part of the ‘active travel scheme’ to help boost the nation’s health, and I am currently in discussions with local and county councillors about accessing these funds to improve the route that the bicycle bus will be taking.”
Nationally just 3% of children cycle to school and we would like The Bicycle Bus to become a shining example for other parents to start their own initiatives. So come on parents, ditch the car keys, dust off your bike, and join your child on the bicycle bus!
Please take a look at the website where you will see quotes from not 1 but 2 world record holders on the benefits of cycling to school.