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Watson’s is Head-over-Wheels for Cycling to School!

  • Junior School
  • Senior School

At Watson’s we encourage our pupils and staff to protect our environment and promote healthy living by inviting those who can to swap the car for a bike and follow the eco-friendly route to school!

We have a number of initiatives and developments in place to support our quest to become as environmentally friendly as possible - from our ever expanding Bike Bus to our partnership with Bike & Spanner. We also have a number of staff who already cycle to school; keen to share their story and inspire other members of our community to do the same. Could you join them in 2024?

Our Cycling Strategies:

The Watson’s Bike Bus

Our Bike Bus has been running since 2022 as a means to encourage pupils to use active travel, reduce emissions and minimise the number of cars travelling into school on a daily basis. The scheme has been so well received that we now have four routes operating on different days of the week.

The Bike Bus allows pupils to gain independence and build their confidence as road users. We spoke to a group of our P4 cyclists to find out why they enjoy commuting in this manner:

  • Eddie: “The Bike Bus is great for getting exercise and fresh air. It's completely safe as you have grown ups with you at all times. It is very sociable too - I like having a chat with my friends as we ride our bikes to school!”

  • Lochlan: “Travelling in a big group is very safe and a lot of fun! I totally recommend it and I have gotten to know children in other classes through joining the Bike Bus.”

  • Tom: “Travelling on the Bike Bus allows us all to be together whilst having fun on our bikes! More importantly, we are also helping the environment by reducing pollution.”

  • Nicholas: “Cycling into school is really eco-friendly - we are playing our part in helping the environment!”

Working with Bike & Spanner

Bike & Spanner is renowned throughout the UK and Europe. The team are experts in Cycle to Work sales and offer in house suspension servicing to the highest possible standards, whether you ride a £150 or £5000 bike.

We are delighted that, as one of our approved partners, Bike and Spanner came in to carry out free bike servicing to those within the Watson’s community. Although this was a one-off, there are potential plans for the company to visit on a bi-annual basis, offering competitive rates for all future services. At present, no additional visits have yet been confirmed but we hope, in time, to look at opening this up to pupils and parents - possibly some time in the New Year. Watch this space! 

Be Inspired by our Staff Cyclists

At Watson’s we have a number of staff that cycle to school - in all weathers! Many of whom encourage fellow colleagues and pupils to also experience the benefits. 

We caught up with them to find out why they enjoy their commute, the positive impact on their mental health and the advantages of getting to campus this way:

Morven Wraight - Teacher of Religion and Philosophy

“I have been working at Watson's for 7 years and 3 years ago, I decided to start cycling. This was mostly for environmental reasons and to build in exercise to my day, I didn't expect to really enjoy it too! Having 30 minutes in the morning in the fresh air, exercising and listening to a podcast is a great way to start the day and I really noticed the difference. My children, who are pupils at  Watson's, cycle with me from Portobello which is a beautiful route - mostly off road. I would definitely recommend this mode of travel if people can make it work for them.”

Emanuele Falcone - Teacher of Modern Foreign Languages

“Cycling to work makes me feel so good in the morning. I can get my exercise done, I avoid all traffic jams and I always know what time I will get home/to work. Luckily I can also shower when I arrive on campus so I feel fresh for the working day ahead. I love seeing the seasons change as I travel along the cyclepaths but more importantly, it is great to breathe in crisp, clear air every day instead of traffic pollution.”

Graeme Strudwick - Assistant Principal Teacher, Modern Foreign Languages

“I have been cycling for 15 years from the Ferry Road area. It suits me to cycle to work for many reasons:

  1. It keeps me fit!

  2. After a day in school (and I tend to be inside all day long), it's great to get some fresh air on my way home as it helps me wind down after a busy day. 

  3. I don't need to find any other time to do exercise - my 25 mins of cardio each way is plenty, and it wakes me up in the morning!

  4. It's convenient for commuting as the travel time is really predictable - I don't get stuck in queues etc.

  5. The fact that it's environmentally friendly is an added bonus. 

  6. There is no stress about finding a parking space!”

Steven Griffin - Head of Music

“I feel much more awake and alive in the morning when I cycle to work. My day usually starts with a rehearsal at 8:15am so the cycle into school is a good physical warm up - even on a cold day!  I also find cycling helps to clear my mind and I often have some good ideas for compositions when I'm on my bike. For example, my prizewinning carol, ‘A Hymn to the Virgin’, came to me almost fully formed on a cycle home from work!”

Joanna Nicol - Head of Pupil Development & Assistant Principal Teacher, Modern Foreign Languages

“I started cycling to work 3 years ago. I am no cyclist but I was sick of the commute, sitting in traffic and worrying about parking. I also felt the time in the car was wasted - I didn't enjoy being so sedentary but by the time I got home from work, I was too tired to do any exercise. I started giving the alternative options some serious consideration. The idea of cycling appealed to me but because I live far away, it would be a 10k cycle each way.  For that reason, the option of an e-bike seemed like the best one for me. Equally, as an inexperienced cyclist, my route to work was something I had to consider carefully. I was able to plan a route that avoided main roads and utilised cycle paths almost exclusively. This made me feel much more confident when I was starting out. I signed up with the Cycle to Work scheme and was able to get the bike I wanted (including all the kit I needed!) and pay for it through the salary deduction method - it was a really straightforward and painless purchase! Now I can, hand on heart, say I love cycling to work! I get some exercise every day and I am pleased to be doing my bit for the environment. I also enjoy the fact that I don't have to worry about parking and my commute takes the exact same time every day. There is a fantastic community of cyclists in the school who have made me feel very welcome and they have lots of advice and words of support. Finally, jumping on the bike and cycling home gives me the opportunity to decompress and ‘switch off’ from work by the time I get home in a way that driving never did. I only wish we lived in a country with a different climate and more light - I am yet to commit to cycling all year round but look forward to the spring when I can get the bike out again!”

Improvements to Current Facilities

As more and more staff and pupils opt to cycle to school, we have improved some of our facilities and continue to put plans in place for further developments to encourage more members of the school community to use their bikes. 

So far we have improved our bike shed; adding hooks for helmets, drying lines and extended the space to accommodate 8-10 more bikes. We have also improved our maintenance equipment and changing facilities. As a school we plan to develop this further by improving showers and storage solutions.

The Cycle to Work Scheme

Our Cycle to Work employee benefit enables all Watson’s staff to save up to 42% on the latest bikes, high-vis clothing and safety accessories for their commute to and from work. 

Cycle to Work has joined forces with Cyclescheme, Evans and Cycle Solutions as part of The Cycle to Work Alliance to champion the benefits of regular biking and enable cost-effective access to over 1 million employees across the UK. 

The scheme aims to empower employees - increasing levels of active travel as a means to stay fit, healthy and focussed; avoiding expensive fuel, parking and public transportation costs. It also allows individuals to browse a huge range of tax-free bikes and safety equipment from one convenient location, spreading the cost of their order throughout the year with manageable reductions directly from their salary.

This session we have 6 applicants (so far!) as part of the scheme. It is important to reiterate that there is a minor salary sacrifice, but the benefits more than make up for it. To find out more, staff can access the new staff benefits portal, Vivup, via our website.

With on-campus car parking spaces being reduced in Summer 2024, are you ready to swap the car for a bike? If you have any questions about cycling to school, please contact Watson’s Director of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Sustainability, Emilie Robinson.