Cycling isn’t unpopular, it’s simply the lack of equipment and guidance that prevents schools from offering it.
Cycul, who organise Lap the Lough, Ride on Belfast and other cycling projects, carried out a school survey in the Armagh and Dungannon area at the end of 2017 and found that cycling came rock bottom in activities offered as part of the curriculum.
Stephen McNally from Cycul explained:
“Cycling isn’t unpopular, it’s simply the lack of equipment and guidance that prevents schools from offering it. We took our Ride Leader training through Cycling Ireland in 2018 which gave us access to the Southern Health Trust’s bike pod in Dungannon, located within walking distance of the schools. We then contacted 3 local secondary schools and arranged for a group of Year 8s from each school to go cycling during their PE class.”
The pupils start with training sessions in the car park, concentrating on basic bike handling, looking over their shoulder, making strong hand signals and controlling the bike at lower speeds. Then they go out on some quiet country roads and off road sections building up confidence before venturing through town.
“It’s been incredibly popular. We’re only working with Year 8s during the pilot but there’s huge interest across all ages to get involved. The goal is simply to give pupils the skill and confidence to get out on their bikes, discover their town and even start cycling to school”.
They’ve also been running a similar project with an over 50s group, mostly women who hadn’t cycled in 40+ years.
“The group started by cycling 500m in week 1 and finished 6 weeks later cycling over 15 miles along the Newry Canal. If you remove the barriers and give people the opportunity, you discover how popular cycling can be - regardless of age.”
To finish off the project all 40+ participants are heading to Craigavon Trails at the end of June to experience mountain biking.
Cycul would like to thank Mid Ulster Council, the NI Executive and TBUC for supporting the project.