Local schoolkids tackle congestion head on with cycling challenge

Saving the planet: Kids and staff in their Superhero Day clobber. Photograph: Olive School

With climate change protests taking place across London, students at a Hackney school have done their bit for the environment by ditching the car and walking, pedalling or scooting their way to the gates.

For the ten-day period from 25 March to 5 April, pupils, parents and staff from the Olive School pledged to take the healthy and sustainable route to school as part of Sustrans Big Pedal 2019, a nationwide initiative to encourage healthier and greener travel for children.

The challenge was organised by walking and cycling charity Sustrans, which aims to inspire people to choose eco-friendly travel options with projects such as the 16,575 mile National Cycle Network of paths for walking, cycling and exploring the outdoors across the UK.

Students at the primary school also took part in the Sustrans Superhero Day on 5 April, dressing up as their favourite character to raise money for the charity.

This allowed children who weren’t able to travel sustainably every day to get involved in the challenge and prizes were awarded for the most adventurous costumes.

Caterina Park, Principal of The Olive School described the success of the event: “It’s a great way to get more of our pupils travelling actively to school and is a simple way to boost their physical and mental health.

“The school looked transformed and so colourful during the Superhero Day with costumes from Supergirl, Batman, Iron Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“It was great seeing all the vibrant and exciting costumes on the day.”

The Olive School was one of 2,292 schools which took part in the Big Pedal across the UK this year, with 746,218 pupils rising to the challenge.

Some schools went a step further and shut nearby roads to cars to reduce the amount of traffic and air pollution and to make the area safe and enjoyable for walkers and cyclists.

This challenge comes as concerns around pollution levels near Hackney’s schools continues to rise, with growing evidence showing that toxic air leaves children with an increased risk of developing lifelong conditions including asthma.

At the Olive School’s temporary Cazenove Road site, air quality is rated as slightly polluted, meaning that it is likely that nitrogen dioxide levels will exceed the annual legal limit.

This is according to “calculated estimates of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) average data for 2016 at 100m resolution”, taken from air quality data specialist EarthSense’s MappAir project.

The school, run by Tauheedal Education Trust, is expected to move to a new site at a former police station on Lower Clapton Road after difficulties with squatters occupying the building and issues with the council’s planning committee.

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