These two weeks (w/c 18 and w/c 25) are part of the sustrans “big pedal”, a bid to get more people getting to school on their own steam to reduce the amount used in cars, buses, and other modes of transport which emit carbon dioxide among other pollutants into the air. As someone personally taking part in this with some along with the other 2,241 schools, I reflected on why more people didn’t make their journeys to school that bit more exciting and ditched whatever carbon emitting mode of transport they relied on.


This was not a unique event, as Wimbledon High School has always been heavily interested in their student’s wellbeing and time spent getting active, particularly if it can get them through the school gates. Casting my mind back to primary school I rememberd the notorious “walk to school badges”. Boxes of badges were kept in the school that would be given to the girls who claimed to have walked/cycled at some point during their journey to school. There seemed to be a silent competition of who could pin more badges on their green cardigans making the most rattle as they skipped down the halls of the school.  Though primary school me was indefinitely only in it for the badges, I was certainly more motivated to walk and take public transport over being driven, however much more comfortable the former seemed, especially on Monday mornings.  However fun it was collecting badges, that’s all it was; badges collecting in a box and soon I was being driven to school again. Ava Stetina, who was with me in the junior school explained “I believe that the badges were successful into getting children to walk however the designs become boring quickly and I began to loose interest”.  It seemed that to get students to make a healthy change, it couldn’t solely hinge on the promise of plastic pins.  Poorna Baikady, now in Year 10 agreed saying “for some people they were [effective] but people could just lie about walking to get a badge”.


So how was the “Big Pedal” more successful? There was a competition element but it wasn’t yet tangible. But what was more tangible was the experience of cycling/walking to school for yourself, not so much for a prize. This event is running for two weeks rather than being an ongoing, weekly thing. This meant there was a short spurt of time to get involved, the urgency getting more people to have a go. And so more people made the change sincerely, to try take on a slight lifestyle change they knew was beneficial for themselves and for the environment.  Tilly Borthwick in Year 10 told me, “I decided to cycle to school because, not only is it a great opportunity to catch up with my friends, but it is also [a] much more environmentally friendly way of travelling- as I used to take a train and a bus”.


So clearly the formula for success when it comes to making changes to your lifestyle to be more ecologically minded is, an achievable yet aspirational goal, community and sometimes prizes. And, just having passed Earth Day last week and thinking of all the promises and goals world leaders have pledged to keep, how can you help the environment whilst still getting on with your day? Why not take your bike for a spin whilst the Big Pedal is still under way? Nothing to lose and clearly so much to give and gain.