Belfast Telegraph

Lord Mayor returns to school with pedal medals

Belfast Mayor Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile presented St Matthew’s Primary School in the Short Strand with a bronze School Mark award from UK charity, Sustrans.

The school is the first in Northern Ireland to receive a School Mark award from the charity. At the ceremony the Mayor congratulated pupils, teachers and parents on receiving the award for their dedication to transforming the school run by encouraging more pupils to cycle.

As part of the celebrations children were encouraged to cycle to school in the brightest clothes they could find and all children and parents who cycle to school received a free bikers breakfast.

Sustrans began working with the school in September 2009 to encourage children and parents to choose two wheels for the school run. In the last two years the number of pupils regularly cycling to school has increased by 29 per cent.

Now over half of the pupils at St Matthew’s Primary School regularly cycle to school, much higher than the national average of just two per cent. Over the last year, Sustrans Bike It officer Beth Harding has worked with teachers and pupils to organise various events and classroom based curriculum activities to give the children the knowledge and skills to enable them to cycle safely.

Ms Harding said: “I’m delighted that St Matthew’s Primary School has achieved a bronze Sustrans School Mark award; it highlights all of the hard work put in by the children, teachers and parents. “The school is really dedicated to inspiring children onto their bikes, to reduce the effects of the school run on the environment and to encourage healthy and active lifestyles.”

Lord Mayor, Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile, hailed the pupils at St Matthew's for setting an example to others across the city and beyond.

He said: “They are role models to us all. “By cycling safely they are sending out a positive message about looking after our environment and benefiting from a healthier lifestyle". Sustrans works with 11 schools in the greater Belfast area, in partnership with DRD Travelwise and Sport NI. The Sustrans website — www.sustrans.org.uk — has a free online map service to discover how to get around everyday on foot or by bike.

Search for local or national routes, plot journeys, or find what the local area has to offer from schools, supermarkets and local landmarks to car clubs, bus stops and bike shops.

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