R-evolution's visit to Boothferry Primary School


R-evolutions visit to the Boothferry Primary School

Boothferry Primary School sits away from the main road, barely a mile from the centre of Goole. It's an industrial area, and a diverse one; the school prides itself on its multi-culturalism and embracing a wide range of languages and cultures among the four hundred pupils.

It's a sunny Friday in September and part of the school entranceway has been transformed into a mini bike workshop, with tools, boxes of new helmets and several racks full of bikes, ready for the 3pm end of school rush. They're all here courtesy of the local Yorkshire Bank funded Bike Library, one in a network of eight libraries across Yorkshire.

CraigJohn Marshall and his team have been running their R-evolution project for just nine months but already seen huge demand for its bikes. With the extra funding they've received from Yorkshire Bank, they've been able to expand their work in schools and, with the help and support from East Riding of Yorkshire Councils Road Safety Team, deliver more bikes to more children. In the same week as our visit R-evolution, local Police and members from the Road Safety team also launched two other school bike libraries in East Riding, at Market Weighton and Beverley, and together are looking to expand the scheme at more local schools. The aim of each library is to loan out at least twenty bikes at each school.

The school's headmaster, Mr Mike Sibley, comes out to tell us about the importance of the project to his school. "We're absolutely a cycling school, part of the local cycling family. We held a Tour de Boothferry to celebrate the Tour de Yorkshire coming through our area, and used it as an example of health and exercise to teach the children about their own life choices. With East Riding Council we're also working towards the gold award in the national Modeshift STARS scheme, encouraging the children and their parents to walk, ride or scoot to school, and make better transport choices.

David Butt, East Riding's Assistant Road Safety Officer tells us "This Bike Library follows a number of successful initiatives run at Boothferry Primary over the last twelve months. The school began working with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council's Road Safety Team towards achieving the bronze level of Modeshift STARS last year, and following successes of the Tour de Boothferry and the schools involvement with the Cycle 4 Life Challenge day at Goole High School, were introduced to John Marshall of R-evolution. The school ran a week long bike amnesty with the aim of collecting unwanted bikes, leading to the opportunity to become involved with the Bike Library scheme."

As with all the Bike Libraries, many of the ones being lent out have been donated by members of the public. John's bikes have a unique route to being put back into use; every donated bike needs some kind of mechanical work and a safety check, and in this case the mechanics are prisoners from nearby HMP Humber. "We have fifteen guys in our workshop inside the prison, and we're training them up to be cycle mechanics. It's very important to give them some purposeful activity, something they're proud of, and a new skill. Light engineering and mechanical work is a skill shortage in this part of East Riding so it's not just an extra part of their life coaching, but leads to a qualification and path to employment once they're released".

Boothferry Primary SchoolNot long after we arrived at the school, a mum drops by with a purple bike, complete with those classic reminders of childhood riding, white tyres and handlebar tassels. "You can have this one, if you like? It just doesn't fit my little girl any more" she says - and the bike is gratefully received, as it's in great condition and after a thorough safety check by R-evolution's mechanic Adam, is put on the rack for a child to borrow later.

Helping put the bike on the rack, Mr Sibley explained "The roads surrounding the school are relatively quiet so it's a good place for the children to start learning about how to ride on the road safely. We've also found that going for the Modeshift STARS gives all age groups something to work towards together, and they've definitely found a sense of pride in being a cycling school".

Steve Wigley, East Riding's Assistant Road Safety Officer is keen to explain how the Bike Library and the national award scheme recognising sustainable travel within schools, Modeshift STARS, works so well together; "It's all about encouraging healthy, safe, sustainable travel in the school community. We want to see more children and families cycle, walk, or scoot, rather than come by car, and we want pupils to be excited and interested enough to convince their parents.

"Having schools commit their time to Modeshift STARS gives the children something to be proud of and aim for. But we can't just inspire the children that they should ride to school - what if they haven't got a bike? That's where the Bike Library really comes into its own. If a child don't have access to a bike, let alone a safe roadworthy one then they can access this fantastic initiative.

Steve also adds, "The Road Safety Team have been working hard to build a real enthusiasm towards safe cycling and sustainable travel over the years in schools, where we have been delivering a vast programme of events, initiatives, assemblies and workshops as well as giving pupils the necessary skills to make sure they are as safe as they can be when traveling to and from school. We are now seeing a real shift away from car usage on the school run at our Modeshift schools, and starting to make the school zone a safer place to be for all."

Mr Sibley goes further; "We have quite a number of families who simply cannot afford a bike. They want one, and want to ride, and we tell them how fun, how healthy it is - but until the Bike Library visits, many simply haven't had one of their own".

Suddenly it's 3pm and the children start streaming out of school, straight towards the bikes to collect one they reserved at the start of the day. Sitting among them is the purple bike brought in barely an hour beforehand. John spots a girl who would fit it, and she's kitted out with a helmet, the saddle is adjusted, she's given a quick chat about the brakes, riding steadily - and she's off, riding home with her dad.

In total twenty one bikes are ready to be lent out. Each comes with a brand new helmet, and the straps are adjusted by John and Adam, plus Steve and David from East Riding Council. Often the children can't stand still long enough with excitement. With the children itching to get going, the parents sign a short authorisation form for the monthly loan (there is no limit to the number of months a child can have a bike). Ten minutes later, half the bikes are gone.

One boy to receive a BMX is seven year old Ian whose family are from Brazil, and his mum has brought his toddler brother to collect him from school. The smaller boy is also on a bike but Adam spots there's something not right with it. With Ian to translate, the bike is briefly borrowed and put on the workstand. Adam adjusts the brakes and cranks, tightening several key components to make it safe. The younger boy is fascinated by the process and once the bike is returned, does a victory lap of the school car park for us.

"All this is watched by Headteacher Mike Sibley. "You can tell the impact the bikes will have on these children. Look at the freedom it gives them. I think the smiles today tell you everything about how important the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries are going to be".

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