Get on your bike this Christmas!
Sinn Féin Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, encouraged children to try cycling to school as she launched the Safe Routes to School Project.
Bicycles remain a popular Christmas present and the introduction of a safe cycle route will allow many more children to use their bikes to travel to school. The Safer Routes Project is an initiative led by sustainable transport charity Sustrans and partly funded by DARD. The Minister launched the Safer Routes to School Project at St Patrick's Primary School in Derrygonnelly.
Launching the route Ms Gildernew said:
"This project is an excellent example of how Sustrans have worked closely with the school to effectively address safety concerns. It has involved the installation of a Safety Zone along the approach to this school which consists of flashing lights and special road markings, and also the construction of a cycle shed for pupils' bikes.
"Encouraging and enabling children and parents to travel in a healthy and environmentally-friendly way to and from school is a top priority for the Government. I am determined that my Department will play its part in ensuring more children in rural areas have a safer route to and from school.
"I am impressed by the fact that there are School Travel Advisors who will work with the school to produce and implement School Travel Plans tailored to meet each school's specific needs. This will enable children to travel in an active and environmentally-friendly way, with a strong focus on safety.
"By encouraging, walking, cycling and public transport use from a young age, children learn to form healthy, safe, independent life skills and will be more likely to do the same, when they become parents."
The County Fermanagh school is one of eighteen schools across rural areas in the North of Ireland that are part of the Safe Routes to School initiative coordinated by the sustainable transport charity Sustrans.
Sustrans were awarded funding in excess of £900K towards the implementation of the project through the EU Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Programme.
The Minister paid tribute to Eileen Glynn Principal of Saint Patrick's Primary School Derrygonnelly and William Methven, Sustrans Safe Routes to Schools Project Manager, for the sterling work both had put into an excellent project.
Congratulating everyone involved in the project, the Minister said:
"This project is a fine example of working in partnership, the involvement of the local school, Sustrans, Roads Service, the Department of Education and DARD, all pursuing common goals for the good of local dwellers and the development of the local community."
The Minister concluded:
"This project is just one product of the 2000- 2006 Rural Development Programme making a real and meaningful difference to the lives of rural people and contributing to sustaining local communities. Let's not forget, however, the opportunities that exist to go further. The new Rural Development Programme 2007-2013, which I recently announced, will spend over £500million in our rural areas with over £100million specifically set aside for improving the quality of life in rural areas and diversification of the rural economy." ENDS