Pupils in Castleford have been gearing up for an active summer with a cycling skills boost, thanks to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bike or on foot.
Half Acres Primary Academy, Castleford (pictured), is the first of the Combined Authority’s Bike Friendly Schools in the Wakefield district.
Delivered in partnership with Bradford-based BeCycling, CityConnect’s Bike Friendly Schools scheme provides free cycle training for pupils, with funding available for cycle storage at the school, as well as training for staff to plan and deliver activities.
From learning to ride for the first time to building confidence on the bike and learning about road safety, more than 30 pupils from year one have been boosting their skills on two wheels during the final weeks of term.
Sophie Naylor, Year One Teacher at Half Acres Primary Academy, Castleford, said: “Taking part in CityConnect’s free cycle training has been such an exciting experience for the children, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have had an opportunity to build their confidence on two wheels.
“So many of our children who couldn’t ride a bike at the beginning of the week can now cycle and we’re all so proud of what they’ve achieved in such a short space of time.
“From boosting physical activity to instilling good habits that last a life time, we know encouraging more of our pupils to cycle and walk to school brings huge benefits, helping the commuters of the future build sustainable, green travel into their daily lives.”
The Bike Friendly Schools scheme is targeted at schools on or near to CityConnect routes, including the Castleford to Wakefield Greenway linking Fairies Hill Locks by Whitwood Golf Course with Methley Bridge, which was opened in spring 2018. Construction work is currently underway on a traffic-free route between Castleford and Methley.
Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said: “Through CityConnect, the Combined Authority is working in partnership to make cycling and walking a viable option for all residents – regardless of age or ability – by not only delivering new and improved infrastructure, but also through initiatives such as our Bike Friendly Schools scheme.
“Instilling a love of cycling in children from a young age has long-lasting benefits, encouraging independent travel as a teenager and creating good habits for an active adult life.”
“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.”
From learning to ride for the first time to making the journey to secondary school by bike, this academic year alone the CityConnect team has worked with 18 new schools across Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield, and delivered more than 3,300 training sessions.
Six of those schools were loaned a fleet of balance bikes, with staff being trained how to support pupils to cycle – more than half of the children taking part in the scheme are learning to ride for the first time.
This year also saw Tour de France Race Director Christian Prudhomme visit pupils at Castleton Primary, one of CityConnect’s Bike Friendly Schools in Leeds, the creation of a Brownlee Brothers-inspired piece of land art to celebrate the Tour de Yorkshire and training a group of teachers and parents to lead short rides at participating schools.
Starting in February 2017, the scheme initially focused on schools near CityConnect’s award-winning Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway – a 23km segregated cycle route connecting two of Yorkshire’s major cities.
The team is now working in other areas to coincide with new routes either built or improved through the CityConnect programme, including the Rochdale Canal towpath between Sowerby Bridge and Hebden Bridge, and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal between Milnsbridge and the town centre.
To date, pupils from 33 schools across West Yorkshire have received support through the scheme, with more than 140 extra bike and scooter parking spaces having been installed at participating schools.
Find out more information about CityConnect’s Bike Friendly Schools scheme.