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What does BCP Council's new 'Bike-it' Officer do?

Following her appointment as Bike it Plus Officer at BCP Council, Amanda Shorey tells us what her new role is all about. 

Amanda Shorey - BCP Council's new Bike-it Officer.  Photo by Ray Craig
 Amanda Shorey - BCP Council's new Bike-it Officer.  Photo by Ray Craig  

Hello! My name is Amanda and I work for Sustrans as a Bike it Plus Officer in partnership with the BCP Council’s sustainable travel team. Sustrans is the UK Charity that makes it easier for people to walk and cycle and is the custodian of the National Cycle network. 

I have fond memories of school. I remember enjoying my lessons and learning lots of new things. But one of the things that I really enjoyed about school was the journey there and back. When I think back about it now, I don’t think of sitting in traffic in a car or waiting to be picked up; I remember walking with my friends whilst having a chat and a laugh along the way. I don’t remember feeling tired when I arrived but feeling like I was ready to start the day. Of course, there was the odd rainy walk or ride but those wet days were not important as I very much enjoyed getting out in the fresh air. 

It’s my job as the BCP Council Bike it Plus Officer to work with 12 nominated schools across the BCP Council area to encourage pupils to travel more actively. When I started my job back in March, schools hadn’t returned and everything was online. I set myself a challenge to sign-up 10 BCP schools to the Sustrans Big Pedal in April. The Big Pedal is the UK’s largest inter-school cycling, walking and scooting challenge, aimed at inspiring pupils, staff and parents to choose human power for their journey to school. I am pleased to say that I achieved this goal and the schools that took part did very well. Somerford Primary logged an impressive 3,017 total active journeys during the five-day challenge. Many of these pupils have continuing to ride and walk to school after the event, which of course is our key goal. 

As well as the ‘Big Pedal’, I have recently been running cycling skills playground sessions. I have run these at both Heatherlands Primary School, which will be continuing until the end of the summer term, and at Bethany Junior School. The pupils that participate, test and improve their braking, turning and balancing skills by trying a range of games such as slow races, playing follow and copy the leader and cycling around obstacles. The children also learn how to perform an ABC safety check on their bikes and how to wear their helmets properly.  Staff have since reported to me that many more children are now cycling to school rather than getting their parents to drive them.

I also run ‘Dr Bike sessions’ which provide a free safety check and minor adjustments to bikes. It is free to pupils, parents and teachers and so far I have run these sessions at Heatherlands Primary and Bourne Academy. Poole High School is next on the list with others already being planned for the future.

But my job is not all about visiting schools.  I have also created virtual assemblies and communicate with the wider school’s community about the benefits of active travel through newsletters and posters. I have also developed cycling and walking zoned maps for Muscliff and Somerford Primary Schools and created ready-made lessons for teachers to deliver at Oakdale Junior School, which helps year six pupils get ready for secondary school. 

I think that being outdoors and taking the time to enjoy the world around us is really important for our overall wellbeing. I know that I feel better when I have been out on my bike or gone for a walk. I hope that by improving children’s cycling skills and knowledge, they will be able to enjoy being out on their bikes and to cycle, walk or scoot safely to school and back. The value of being able to exercise in the great outdoors and travel actively has been demonstrated during the last year as there has been a boom in cycling and outdoor activity and an increased appreciation of the enjoyment that being submerged in nature brings us.

Cycling, walking or scooting to school is a great way to start the day - it can aid concentration and contributes to a healthier lifestyle. If you haven’t tried traveling actively to school with your family or friends, then the summer term is a great time to start. It’s also brilliant for promoting independence in young people and can help them to grow in confidence.

If you haven’t been traveling by bike or foot recently, I would encourage you to give it a go. You never know how much fun you might have!