Angellica Bell backs Big Pedal campaign encouraging London families to swap the car for cycles and scooters

A cycling charity is launching a campaign to get London families out of cars and onto bikes and scooters for the school run.

The Big Pedal 2019, run by cycling charity Sustrans, encourages pupils, parents and staff to travel actively to and from school to improve air quality and combat obesity.

TV and radio presenter Angellica Bell backs the initiative which will run from 25 March to 5 April.

She said: “I’m delighted to be supporting this year’s Big Pedal. It’s a fantastic way to encourage more children to cycle, walk or scoot – doing wonders for their health and the environment around them.”

Andrew Cremin, senior project officer at Sustrans, said: “We are inviting schools all over London to sign up and take part in the competition. Pupils, parents and staff are encouraged to travel to school by bike, scooter or walking. They record those journeys and compete against other school in their local area.”

Schools that clock up the most miles will win bikes and scooters.

Mr Cremin believes children will be keen to participate. “Studies have shown half of children wanted to cycle to school but only 4% were allowed. The main reason was safety,” he said.

He added: “The average journey to school is only 1.6 miles and one in four cars is taking children to school. We encourage people to try it for the duration of the Big Pedal and inspire parents and whole families to change their lifestyles.”

Improving air quality is integral to the Big Pedal.

“We are aiming to do road closures outside schools in March and April because new research shows four out of ten children are breathing toxic air at school, which increases the risk of asthma,” he added. “In London there are some areas that have significantly higher levels of air pollution.”

Last year, Sustrans estimates the event saved 10,908 gallons of fuel and parents spent £60,000 less at the pump. Participants covered more than 400,000 miles and reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 276 kilograms.

The event will also combat obesity.

“By 2050 it’s estimated that 70% of girls and 55% of boys will be obese. It’s recommended they get an hour of  exercise a day. By walking or cycling to school they could do half of this,” Mr Cremin said.

“The ambition of the Mayor of London is to make 80% of journeys delivered by active travel by 2050. So this will contribute to that. A single change can make a big difference.”

This year more than 200 London schools have signed up.

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