Our project aimed to promote use of the bicycle among students. We carried out a study of accessibility in our school IES Pradolongo, to be presented to the Madrid city council department of works.
Before the institute could be included in the Sustainable Travel Accreditation and Recognition for Schools (STARS) program, we needed to look for a group of junior students who were willing to promote the project among their classmates. As the project will run over three years, it was necessary for us to search for students in their first three academic school years. We found six students who agreed to be ‘delegates’ of the STARS programme, and who were responsible for collaborating in a project to promote the use of bicycles. Two were first-year ESO students, two second-year, and two third-year.
The project involved participation in activities that were also carried out by the other five IES in Madrid, as well as some activities that we thought up on our own. We began our participation with a rally through the centre of Madrid that included all STARS delegates and coincided with the European Mobility Week in September 2013. We later organised an event in our school that was attended by students, teachers, parents and members of parents’ governing body AMPA. In December we surveyed all of the IES groups to learn how they travelled to our school to attend this event, and posed an open question asking them how they would chose to come to class.
As the vast majority live close to and walk to their schools, the results of this survey at first appeared of little interest. However they did lead us to carry out a small project about how viable the school is for cyclists, which we have since presented. The survey showed that students who came from two neighbourhoods (Almendrales-Moscardo and Orcasitas) would save a significant amount of time if they cycled to school. This is important for later, when we examined routes from those two zones and worked out where these routes converged.
We made a small area to park and lock bicycles at IES (you can see this on the PowerPoint). It wasn’t very successful and so we have planned to create a larger, more secure area in the hope that it will encourage more students to cycle to school.
We held two meetings in February and March to decide which steps we would make next, and agreed on two priorities:
1. To make a small study of IES accessibility that would be presented to the Madrid city council department of works. City council technicians visited us and are considering raising the level of the road around the school entrance to make cars reduce their speed. They may also make the sidewalk near the school wider, meaning IES students will be safer during arrival, break time and home time.
2. Make a PowerPoint to show during class time on the Friday after Easter holidays in April. This was a presentation of the delegates and the reasons why people should sign up to promote the use of bicycles. It included the advantages of using a bicycle and two proposed itineraries, together with a point of contact for each in the districts of Almendrales-Moscardo and Orcasitas. The presentation also called for an online game, ’The Cycle Challenge’ facilitated by the STARS program, and announced the second educational community cycle event (for AMPA, parents, friends, etc.), held on 28 April 2014 from 17:00–20:00.
IES Pradolongo is situated on Cerro Blanco hill, which slopes down towards the road to Toledo. At the top of the hill is Pradolongo school and Cerro Blanco sports facilities. On the opposite slope is the majority of the built-up neighbourhood of Usera, which falls to the main street Marcelo Usera. This area was built at the end of the 1950s and 1960s in response to migration from the surrounding countryside to the city of Madrid. The layout of these streets is very regular. Buildings are 4–5 floors high, closed-plot and of poor build quality. This form of construction is typical of that in all industrial cities that attracted population from the rural exodus of the middle of the last century. It is a very dense zone, without open spaces; the streets are narrow. It functioned simply as a lodging area, and has few modern facilities. The school and other educational, sports and health facilities that have appeared since have been built on the outskirts of the neighbourhood. Traffic in the streets closest to IES is very moderate as Usera is behind Cerro Blanco. There are 4 possible routes:
1. From Plaza Elíptica there are two alternatives. The quickest route (on the sidewalk) runs 150 metres until you reach the football field and pediment in Parque del Zofío. This is more secure because it crosses Parque Emperatriz María de Austria and the footbridge. However this bridge is complicated for cycles because it has two 180° turns. It would be ideal if sidewalk access was perpendicular to the Toledo road rather that parallel (as it is now).
2. From the northeast of Usera, go down the avenue which delimits S. Viator College. This is the best route for those who live in the North and East of Usera because the road has little traffic.
3. Things are more complicated from the east and southeast where there is a maze of sharply-inclined, narrow streets. The best idea might be to use route 2, but this would mean initially heading away from the school before turning back.
4. The route from the south and southwest runs from Avenida de los Poblados along an asphalt road parallel to the Toledo road, passing the Montículo de Aislamiento. It is ideal for cycling. The meeting point is right behind the bus stop that is next to the Avenida de los Poblados intersection.
In conclusion, the most problematic route is 3. It is poor solution because the slope is so pronounced that cycling is not much quicker than walking. Perhaps a zigzagging route that would make the climb easier could be found, although this would make it difficult to establish a meeting point along the narrow roads and sidewalks.