Lochaber High School, Camaghael, Fort William, Inverness-shire. PH33 7ND Tel. 01397 702512
Fiona Beattie, Active Schools Coordinator, reports on a project that has motivated pupils and staff to get on their bikes!
Lochaber High School finished 4th in Scotland in the Big Pedal, a national initiative organised by Sustrans. Primary and Secondary schools around Britain have two weeks to encourage as many pupils and staff to cycle to school as possible. This year’s event took place from 20 – 31 March and our participation was the idea of two local parents, Lyndsey Shaw and Nix Forster. The project was supported within the school by Mrs Meldrum who, as well as being involved with the after-school biking club, was able to take on the marketing of the event through a Sustrans designed classroom project with her S2 Business Studies class.
Before the project began the number of bikes in the school bike shed never exceeded ten, even in good weather. So, in January, the work began to promote the project and to encourage as many pupils and staff to cycle as possible. As with any project that aims to increase the participant numbers in young people, incentives were a hot topic. Nevis Cycles were quick to recognise the importance of the project and very kindly donated a Specialized bike to be included in the Big Prize Draw. This brilliant prize was awarded to Raghnall MacKinnon who certainly worked hard for it by cycling to school twice from Bohuntin – a journey which took him and his younger brother 1.5 hours to complete! Other prizes were two Fit Bits and some cycle lights which were won by Rebecca Lesley, Emma Jane Donaldson and Gabrielle Campbell.
To be in the draw pupils at the school had to cycle to school at least once during the two weeks. The more times you cycled, the more chance you had to win as a raffle ticket was issued for each day cycled. Each morning the registration team, made up of a number of volunteers including S5 pupil Shaun MacLeod, were there to meet and record the pupils and staff who had cycled that day.
On the first day there were 24 cyclists, which was a brilliant start to the project. However, as the days went on, the numbers rose steadily. The most popular day for cyclists was during the second week when there were 66! During the two weeks Lochaber was enjoying a very sunny spell, which certainly encouraged more pupils and staff to get on their bikes. However, even when the weather started to change and the rain arrived on the last couple of days, numbers remained at almost double the number achieved on the first day and over four times the number seen cycling to school before the start of the project. Over the course of the fortnight a total of 460 journeys were made to school, covering a total distance of 1050 miles! At the end of the project LHS finished 4th in Scotland and 25th in Britain.
Throughout the project there were some very impressive journeys being undertaken with pupils riding from as far away as Roy Bridge, Gairlochy and Onich. There was some brilliant team work shown, not least when Ronnie Fulford suffered a puncture and ran to school from near Glenloy with his brother Ronnie towing his bike and his friend Joshua Balcombe carrying his bag. The Berardelli brothers also put in some good team work when Fergus and Georgio rode to school together.
The project was a great success and is sure to become an annual event at the school. So impressed with the momentum built throughout the project, the volunteers who worked on it are keen to continue to promote cycling to school by starting a new scheme – ‘Wheels on Wednesday’ will start after the Easter Holidays on 26 April. The idea will be to encourage pupils and staff to cycle at least once a week, on Wednesdays. This scheme will also have prize draws each week, and a Big Prize Draw before the summer holidays. ‘Wheels on Wednesday’ will tie in with the after school MTB club that meets each Wednesday, also starting on the 26 April.
There are a huge number of thanks to go out those people who made the project such a success – firstly to Mrs Meldrum’s S2 class who did such a great job of marketing the project; Nevis Cycles for the great prize; Off Beat Bikes for offering a free maintenance day before the event kicked off; Mrs Clark who rallied and encouraged the staff within school to cycle; Lyndsey, Nix and Shaun for being at registration every morning; Shaun also for creating a great promotional video and for helping with the after school bike club; Cecilia and Roz from Sustrans; No Fuss Events for the loan of some extra bike storage and, of course, no matter how far you cycled, a huge ‘Thanks and Well Done’ to all the cyclists who took part. Keep Pedalling!