If you're living in Cork city and partial to a cycle around the place, you might have noticed that traffic is slightly up on the city's lanes this week.
It's Cork Bike Week, part of the National Bike Week initiative to get schools, offices and other community groups in the saddle and cycling around, raising awareness of the health, social and environmental importance of going from four wheels to two.
A collaboration between Cork Sports Partnership, Cork City Council & Cork County Council, Cork Bike Week provides financial support and educational materials to schools on making the big switch, as well as making sure that parents, kids and other stakeholders are all in on shifting gears for sustainability.#
One of the schools partaking this morning was Gaelscoil Uí Riada in Wilton, Co Cork. Since 2019, the school has been making the effort to get kids in the saddle, from organising a 'bus na rothar' that sees kids cycling safely in groups to school from around the local area, to applying for Green Schools funding for bike huts and scooter stands.
Head of the school's Coiste Tácaíochta (parent's group) is Maude Vernon, who helped oversee a morning of excitement, as the bus rothar was joined by parents and grandparents, as well as an escort by local Gardaí on motorcycles, The Bike Shed van, and met with music, bunting and prizes.
"So we all gathered at Rossbrook (estate, Model Farm Road), and we cycled about two and a half kilometres. There was a fabulous Garda escort. To be honest, we'd thought there'd only be one car, but there was four motorcycle riders as well. That added to the whole excitement, a super presence from the local guards here at Wilton, and community guards from Togher. That was absolutely amazing.
"The school had anticipated Bike Week coming up, and we always do something, there's been a huge drive for sustainability in the school, and we've had a big push with the Green Schools Programme for the last three years. We've put in an enormous amount of development to having lovely bike huts for the children to encourage them to cycle to school.
"We had prizes today from funding we got from the partnership, so they all got little lights and bells for their bikes today from Cillian Read, a dad at the school and owner of the Bike Shed. There was a great festival atmosphere as they rode back to school, they'd music on loudspeakers and flags and everything - they were delighted!"
The Gaelscoil's participation in Cork Bike Week is a reminder of the aforementioned benefits for kids' physical and mental wellness, as well as everyone's part in keeping cars off the road as traffic becomes an issue on our roads again, as offices slowly fill back up.
One parent that's keen to express the importance of getting kids out on their bikes is Dr Claire Buckley, a consultant in public health medicine.
"Cycling is so important for good health, we really want to get them moving and exercising, and to lead by example. The good thing about Bike Week is that it really gives people an opportunity to get out there, to get cycling. It can take a little bit of effort to get organised, but it's so safe.
"Our kids absolutely love it, because they know that they can cycle, it's there, there's cycle lanes. That is why it's so important to do things like this, to give people confidence.
"There's a great sense of fun, as well as being good for people, and an incentive to meet their friends, the kids are nagging their parents, 'c'mon let's go, all the other kids are doing it', so that they get to meet people, as well."
Initiatives like schools' participation in Cork Bike Week are often the result of a number of people mucking in and realising their vision for the kids' best interests, and Gaelscoil Uí Riada is no exception, says Dr Buckley.
"I should mention Karen Kelleher, who started this initiative for the school. Without her enthusiasm and drive, it wouldn't have gotten off the ground. You really do need one very enthusiastic parent to drive it on."
For school principal Breanndán Ó Gréilligh, it's all one aspect of maintaining a healthy yet engaging atmosphere for children and young adolescents. Like any other aspect of running a school, it presents upsides and challenges.
"It's important for us to build up the atmosphere here at the school gates. We had music, we had bunting here. We have kids with flags, sixth-class kids recording it on iPads or photographing it for our own channels, things like that. Once we had our date for the week, Karen contacted a few parents that had gone on the last few busanna na rothar, and the Coiste did a little tweak to the route, for safety for the numbers that we were bringing.
"The Bike Shed van drove behind in case there were any punctures or emergencies! We had about 140 bikes - that's half our school population, cycling to school today."