New BMX track for school obsessed with cycling

28 Apr 2016

A school where everyone is obsessed with cycling has ramped things up by creating a £45,000 BMX track for the community.

Morpeth Road Primary, in Blyth, has spent years developing a culture of cycling at the school and building a collection of 190 finely-tuned bicycles for pupils to use.

Now the school has unveiled a purpose-built pump track, a series of dirt mounds and banked turns, which can be ridden without pedaling, allowing younger children to practice basic cycle skills and more experienced riders to perform stunts.

It was developed with the help of Active Northumberland and a contribution from Northumberland County Council, who reinvested £17,000 of section 106 money to help fund the project.

The track was launched with a cycle-themed community celebration, featuring dance and music, BMX demonstrations, and an inaugural ride by Cramlington’s Jack Watson, the HPV (Human Powered Vehicle) Junior World Champion, who appeared with Barnesbury Cycling Club.

Headteacher Mike Bell came up with the idea after taking a group to the Velodrome, in Manchester, where they tried out an enormous BMX track that featured in the Commonwealth Games.

He said: “Cycling has really developed at the school, to the point that it’s now our major sport and every child in school is now cycling.

“Over the past five years, 100% of the kids who cycle have achieved their academic targets and 75% have exceeded them. Our teachers have seen a clear link between cycling and success in the classroom and there is plenty of scientific evidence to back that up.

“Attendance and behaviour has improved too, because nobody wants to miss out on cycling, and the long bike rides we take are like history, geography and maths lessons rolled into one. And our Bike Week involves studying lots of different subjects through the prism of cycling, things like health and safety, nutrition, and cooking.

“The track will help our younger pupils, many as young as four, to develop basic cycling skills more quickly. But the facility is for the whole community to use and getting the grant from the council, with the support of councillor Val Tyler, was key to making it happen.”

County Councillor Val Tyler, Cabinet Member for Arts, Leisure, and Culture, did the honours to officially the new track open.

She said: “This particular school is always getting involved in cycling programmes and when they asked to see how we could support the pump track idea, we were determined to get behind it.

“Mike’s enthusiasm for cycling has filtered down right through the entire school and we share his belief that as well as having many health benefits, cycling can help to improve academic performance too. Cycling invigorates and enthuses young people and it’s wonderful to see this track in action.”

The school is supported in all of its cycling activities by Bike for Health, Start Cycles and Steel Cycles who have helped the school to grow its large stock of well-maintained bicycles.

The opening of the track follows the publication in April of Northumberland County Council’s new strategy to get more people cycling and walking in the county.

The strategy is outlined in Geared Up, a new prospectus drawn up by members of the Northumberland Cycling and Walking Board which aims to embed a new sustainable travel culture in Northumberland by 2025 and encourage 90 per cent of residents to make at least one journey a week on foot or on a bike.