Hackney school signs up for European cycle challenge

Bike Around the Borough 7

Tyssen Primary School in Hackney has become the first in England to join a European project aimed at boosting the numbers of children walking and cycling to school.

Hackney Council is one of nine local authorities from across Europe running the pilot projects as part of the STARS (Sustainable Travel and Recognition for Schools) programme aimed at reducing the number of cars used for the school run.

Eighty percent of journeys to and from school in Hackney are less than one mile and because they take place during rush hour they generate a significant amount of carbon emissions with authorities aiming to shift at least 5% of these journeys from car to cycle.

Last year nearly 3% of primary schoolchildren cycled to their classes in Hackney, but this drops to 1.5% when children reach secondary school age. Hackney Council want to share their experience in working with primary schoolchildren with authorities including Milan and Madrid and in exchange hope to learn more about continuing this work in secondary schools.

Cllr Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Hackney Council
We want to give children the confidence and freedom that cycling or walking to work can bring and to encourage this positive behaviour at a young age. Walking or cycling is cheaper, healthier and more fun than getting a lift to school or catching the bus and offers parents the chance to spend a bit more time with their children on the school run and take a break from the stress of rush hour traffic. By taking part in this scheme we can share the successes we've had here in Hackney with other major European cities and build new links to ensure even more of our young people enjoy active travel.
Cllr Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Hackney Council

Primary schools taking part in the STARS project can gain bronze, silver and gold awards for holding events like biker's breakfasts, running a WoW club (walk once a week) and by embedding road safety and active travel in the curriculum.

Children at secondary schools have more opportunity to shape the programme becoming Youth Travel Ambassadors who will compete against pupils from the other nine participating cities to win the chance to present their campaign ideas at an event in Brussels.

Funding for the STARS programme from EU sources was secured through the London European Partnership for Transport (LEPT) group, supported by London Councils, and is supplemented by Hackney Council with LEPT securing £137,512 and the borough contributing £45,837 for the three year scheme.

Cllr Catherine West, Chair of London Council's Transport and Environment Committee and leader of Islington Council, said: "We would like to encourage as many pupils as possible in Hackney to actively travel to school, especially by bike, along with other pupils participating in the programme across Europe.

"This innovative project will not only reduce congestion on the school run but also give young people a healthier and often quicker way to travel and get them into the habit of cycling which we hope they will continue into adulthood."

Hackney has already gained recognition as London's cycling borough, with more commuters choosing to cycle to work than any other London borough and has won awards for its work to encourage schoolchildren to cycle, such as the annual Bike Around the Borough event which sees more than 300 youngsters participating in a mass bike ride.