The students of Gaelscoil Osraí have broken their school record for the number of children cycling and scooting to school after 102 children made their way to school on two wheels last Friday, September 25.
The school has quadrupled the number of children coming to school this way since the start of September, and are hoping to keep up the healthy and smart way to get to school throughout the autumn and winter. They are now also inviting the other schools in the city to join in.
The initiative, being ‘driven’ by the school Green Schools committee is a reaction to the Government call on all schools to encourage children to come to school in as healthy a way as possible during the current Covid-19 restrictions. The school has also received huge support from Kilkenny County Council’s newly-appointed cycling officer, Caitriona Corr and from members of Kilkenny Cycling Campaign.
It is also a part of a long-term school policy and aims to reduce the amount of air pollution and traffic congestion caused by school traffic in the city. The school also report increased numbers of children using the school bus system. It is the high viz jackets of the children cycling however that has caught the attention of the city.
Principal of the school Seán Ó hArgáin says they are delighted with the response: “We now have four separate cycle buses coming from different parts of the city,” he said.
“This was started by parents in Castle Gardens and along the Castle Road who organised themselves, with the help of AXA Community Bike Leader Róisín Hickey and are travelling to school through Larchfield and Loughboy to the school. They have been joined by two groups travelling from the Kells Road area and a very impressive group travelling via the city Ring Road from the Old Golf Links Road area.
“More recently I have been joined by parents and volunteers travelling from the Weir estate on the Castlecomer Road. This week we are also starting a Waterford Road bus from Springfields and Clongowen estates.
“Special mention should be given to students who, with parents, are cycling from Johnswell and Dunmore — a huge achievement. One of the most impressive members joining the cycle bus this morning was a Coláiste Pobail Osraí student who had cycled from Jerpoint to Thomastown railway station, gotten the train to Kilkenny and joined our bus for the last part of his journey to school.
“In total now, we have almost a quarter of students travelling to school using ‘their own fuel’ as the Kilkenny Cycling Campaign and the County Council campaign suggested. Imagine the transformation we could make to city traffic and air quality if all the primary and particularly post-primary schools in the city joined in. The reaction we have gotten from motorists has been overwhelmingly positive too, with plenty waves and beeps of support.
“We celebrated last Friday when Cllr Andrew McGuinness welcomed the students, including his son Jack to school on their bikes and scooters. We have also had huge support from Minister Malcolm Noonan who regularly cycles to the school with son Stephen and daughter Kitty.”
Such is the reaction that the school has applied to An Taisce for additional parking shelters for bikes and scooters. The challenge now is to get away from ‘fair weather cycling’.
“We are delighted that Padmore and Barnes are offering a discount on wet weather trousers and jackets to our pupils and the Trespass in High Street are promoting this gear as well. We are also organising classes for children and parents in the near future on safe cycling in windy and wet conditions,” says Principal Ó hArgáin.
“We are also delighted that Kilkenny County Council are including a 1,000 bikes to school day as part of the upcoming Kilkenny Day celebrations on Friday, October 9.
“Imagine if we had that many bikes and scooters in the city and the difference taking at least 500 cars off our streets would make in the mornings and the afternoons.”
Finally, Mr Ó hArgáin reported that teachers and parents are remarking on the improved mood and readiness for learning among those coming to school by bike and walking.
“There is no doubt that our children and staff arrive full of energy and ready for action in the morning,” he said.