Getting past the school run blues.
The school run has to be one of the most globally hated experiences of any parent. For us personally, it involves spending 30 minutes sat at our local traffic lights, going nowhere fast, then the inevitable wrestling match for parking spaces, having arrived either 20 minutes too early, or 5 minutes late. Then it’s the dash to the gate, child / bag / drink / lunch / homework in tow before doing the whole trip in reverse and getting home in what feels like just enough time to leave and replay the entire charade for a second time at 3pm.
It’s not enjoyable, and so most days, we don’t do it. Instead, (and this may not come as much of a surprise), the Little Pro family cycles.
When Dad made the decision to ride to school a little over 3 years ago, it was based purely on the fact that it’s exactly how Dad got to school a few (ahem) years ago. Lewis was already riding his Islabike, so Dad, having not being on a bike for 20+ years went shopping, and rather typically bought something terrible. But it didn’t matter. From that point on, the “normal” school run was on bikes. Initially, Lara was on a child seat behind Dad, but soon after, she learnt to ride on her 14” Islabike, and from Easter, she rode on her own two wheels. Lara rode her bike to school, for two years before she actually started going to school. What’s more, because she wasn’t in school, she did the ride twice a day.
A very different cycling route...
Our ride to school is not the easiest. As we live next to the woods, every day we go directly into the woods, and are instantly confronted with much mud, and the steepest part of the 0.5 mile long hill climb that we have to battle up. Needless to say, some mornings are a real struggle – for Dad as well as the kids, but it does get the blood flowing and blows the cobwebs out.
The other end of the woods, is Lewis' (our eldest) school, so we walk through the playground, depositing him & his bike, then carry on with just Dad and the youngest, covering a very short road section before disappearing through some parkland and arriving at the First School. All of this is executed in less time than it takes to battle with traffic, so in over 3 years of riding, we have never, ever been late. There is no traffic in the woods, except for the occasional dog walker.
For Dad getting home from school after drop-off, it’s a short blast down the road, then as fast as ability will allow through the woods back home. Usually, the kettle is on and coffee brewed before half the other parents have made it back to their cars.
The repeat trip in the afternoon should be the direct opposite, but it isn’t. This is where the fun begins. We do a reverse of the morning route, right up until we arrive at the top of the woods. Then, the kids take it in turns to choose their route home. Today it was Lara’s choice, and we decided to dust off the action camera to give everyone an insight of what actually goes on.
This vs a car? No contest.
Aside from all the usual health benefits (Dad is reliably told that if he cut down on the nightly vino intake he’d actually be quite slim as a result!), how much fun can the school commute be?
What’s more, as a direct result of the school run, the kids have become extremely competent riders – it’s no great surprise that if you practice something every day, you get good at it. I have no doubt that if it wasn’t for the school run, the huge achievements of both kids in their respective challenges (55@5 and Snowdon at Six) would never have happened.
They wouldn’t be competing in their various races. They wouldn’t spend weekends flying around the MTB trails in Swinley Forest. They also would not have learned about bike maintenance, how all the components work, or even the basics such as the M check.
They also wouldn’t have needed quite so much kit, so Dad wouldn’t have spent night after night on google trying to find kit to fit 3 and 5-year-olds. Dad would have kept the terrible bike he bought, as it “would do”, and wouldn’t have spent hours and hours reading and researching the best bikes and the best kit on the market. And importantly, this company – Little Pro – simply would not exist.
The message here is clear – the school run, in its simplest form, is a boring waste of time. But the benefits of cycling go far beyond the usual arguments of health and pollution. It doesn’t matter if Lewis and Lara go on to be championship cyclists - what they have achieved already can never be taken away, and the lessons they have learned along the way will never be forgotten. And many of those are lessons have been learned on the school run, rather than at school.
As for Dad, he would probably be locked away in a darkened office doing the job he hated before starting Little Pro. So remember next time you jump in the car for the school run - the route to school is defined. Where it takes you is not.