A popular lollipop man in St Albans is hoping to inspire pupils this fortnight as they take part in the UK’s largest inter-school walking, wheeling, scooting and cycling competition.
Mike Beeson has been speaking about the benefits of active travel during Sustrans’ Big Walk and Wheel challenge (21 March – 1 April).
The sprightly 70-year-old currently helps children cross safely to and from Skyswood Primary and Nursery School in Marshalswick, St Albans.
As a keen cyclist, Mike can often be found pedalling a bicycle when he is not crossing the road with his lollipop.
He said: “I’ve always been a passionate cyclist and walker, so this job was the ideal choice for me. Twice a day I step out on my crossing, and this helps me to stay active.
“It’s a job I love and it really keeps me fit and well. I hope I can inspire the school pupils and their families to opt for active modes of travel like walking and cycling instead of taking the car.
“It keeps you fit for life and is great for the environment too, so it’s a win-win situation.”
Mike joined Hertfordshire County Council’s crossing patrol team in 2018, after retiring as a self-employed draughtsman.
A leaflet advertising for a crossing patrol officer at his local primary school, came through the door shortly before Christmas.
Mike’s wife suggested this would be an ideal part-time job to help him keep active during his retirement.
Discussing his role, he commented: “On occasions some motorists drive much too fast, they don’t pay attention; they’re on their mobile phones or drinking cups of tea or coffee, you see it all.
“However, the vast majority of motorists are very considerate and do stop without even prompting. I even get the odd wave and I always wave back, it’s all very friendly.”
The number of children being driven to primary school is increasing each year, with as many as one-in-four cars on the road during the morning peak undertaking the school run.
There are many advantages for children who adopt an active school journey. According to the Mental Health Foundation, physical activity can increase mental alertness, energy, positive mood and self-esteem, in addition to reducing stress and anxiety.
Teachers also find children that cycle, walk or scoot arrive at school more relaxed, alert and ready to start the day than those who travel by car.
Credit: Hertfordshire County Council.
Launched in 2010, the Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel aims to encourage more families to leave their cars at home and travel to schools actively to help create healthier and happier communities.
Formerly known as the Sustrans Big Pedal, the event is open to all primary and secondary schools across the country.
During the two-week challenge schools will compete to see who can record the highest number of active journeys taken by pupils.
Last year, over two million active journeys to 2,253 participating schools took place – saving thousands in CO2 and NOx emissions.
The Big Walk and Wheel is one of several campaigns, events and initiatives that occur in the county throughout the year.
Hertfordshire County Council is encouraging children to take up active and healthier forms of travel, with 93 schools already having a sustainable, accredited Modeshift STARS travel plan.
Anthony Boucher, Director of Highways Operations at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “We want to encourage everyone to get active like Mike, who is a real inspiration for our young people and their families. He sets a great example of the lifelong benefits of active travel.
“There’s no better time than the present to start encouraging children on their daily walk, wheel, scoot or cycle to school.
“Our aim is to offer all residents a cleaner, greener, healthier Hertfordshire, which promotes more active travel, protects the environment and helps reduce traffic congestion.”
To find out more about the Sustrans’ Big Walk and Wheel visit: www.bigwalkandwheel.org.uk