In just two weeks Crawley schoolchildren reduced local air pollution by six kilogrammes of dangerous nitrogen oxide (NOx) and almost three tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by swapping the car for walking, biking and scootering to school.
Children from eight Crawley schools used human power for an astonishing 18,284 journeys as part of cycling and walking charity Sustrans’ annual Big Pedal challenge.
In Crawley, children travelled 12,655 miles actively during the challenge, which equates to travelling almost halfway around the world. The reduction in CO2 and NOx was calculated by comparing this to the amount generated if all these journeys had been taken by car.
Councillor Geraint Thomas, cabinet member for environmental services and sustainability, said: “It is fantastic to see an increasing number of schools in Crawley taking part in the Sustrans Big Pedal, while promoting sustainable travel to young people.”
Children at Waterfield Primary have won special recognition from Sustrans for their Big Pedal achievements, receiving a certificate in a presentation attended by councillor Geraint Thomas.
The Bike It Crew at Waterfield Primary held a Bike It Breakfast, Bling your Bike and daily assemblies to mass up a total of 4,386 journeys and a total score of 76.91 per cent.
Justin Moss, the Deputy Head of Waterfield Primary said: “Our pupils are so motivated when it comes to travelling sustainably; they’re also very competitive.
“They walk, scoot and cycle regularly so the Big Pedal has been amazing for us over the past few years.
“We regularly talk about the benefits of exercise with the children in whole school assemblies and because of this the children understand the differences it can make to their moods and their ability to engage in their learning.
“At Waterfield we have an elected Bike It Crew and the Big Pedal is their biggest job during the year.
“They have worked tirelessly to encourage teachers and children to continue to travel sustainably as well as organising events and judging the Bling your Bike competition.
“I am extremely proud of them and all of their achievements this year.”
Hot on their heels was Seymour Primary, who organised Bike Days for all children from years three to six.
These days provided an opportunity for children to improve their bike skills and have a go on the bike obstacle course.
Sustrans’ regional director for the south, James Cleeton, said: “The children, families and schools of Crawley have shown how individuals can dramatically improve the world around them, by replacing cars with human power for just part of the daily routine.
“These children haven’t just prevented the emission of dangerous, invisible pollutants around their schools, but they’ve improved their mental and physical health, giving all of them a better start to the school day.
“At Sustrans, we’re so grateful to every local authority, school, teacher, parent and child who has helped make this possible. What a great start to summer – and a glimpse of what school mornings in Crawley could be like in future.”
Sustrans published YouGov data in March which showed that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of teachers would support a school gate vehicle ban during drop-off and pick-up times and that more than half (59 per cent) want urgent government action to improve air quality near schools.
Public Health England called on local authorities in March to limit transport emissions urgently, banning idling car engines around schools and investing in foot and cycle paths.
NOx can cause breathing problems, reduced lung function and damage teeth, while CO2 is a major contributor to climate change.