OTLEY school pupils joined other students from across Leeds to put forward their ideas for tackling some key transport challenges.

Leeds City Council and active travel endorsing organisation Modeshift invited pupils from four secondary schools to a Dragons’ Den-style ‘pitch’ event.

The Brownlee Centre hosted secondary school pupils from Temple Moor High School, Boston Spa Academy, Prince Henry’s Grammar School and The Ruth Gorse Academy for the Active Travel Ambassador Campaign Junction event.

The event provided an opportunity for young minds to put forward solutions that address transport challenges affecting their school communities.

Alistair Brownlee, Leeds’ esteemed triathlete and the city’s first Active Travel Ambassador (established 2019), kickstarted the event virtually by speaking about his role as an ambassador and the importance of active travel ambassadors in schools.

The idea pitches, tailored to the specific sustainable or road safety needs of each school, showcased a diverse array of solutions aimed at tackling transport issues head-on.

From innovative cycling initiatives to park and stride campaigns, the students demonstrated their commitment to creating positive behaviour change within their communities as they presented their ideas to a panel of industry experts.

Sustainable travel organisation Modeshift operate on a national scale collaborating with schools, businesses and residential developments to promote the adoption of safe, sustainable and active travel practices.

This is the second year the Active Travel Ambassadors programme has run in secondary schools across the country and momentum continues to grow. In Leeds, it received overwhelmingly positive responses from both students and teachers.

Positive behaviour change in travel choices were evident, with a reduction in car use as students embraced more active modes of travel such as walking, scooting or cycling. Following valuable feedback from the panel, all of the participating schools were successful with their idea pitches and were awarded up to £250, with a match fund contribution from the council, to implement their campaigns.

For Prince Henry’s Grammar School, this was their second active travel success in the past six months, having clinched the title of Local Authority Secondary School of the Year at the Modeshift STARS Regional Awards for encouraging uptake of safe, active travel amongst students and staff.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, Councillor Helen Hayden, said: “I was delighted by the enthusiasm displayed by all the students during their pitches. Their innovative ideas about how to promote safe and active travel within their local community were very impressive, given that we want Leeds to be a city where you don’t need to own a car.

“Encouraging safe and active travel to school is an important child friendly initiative to improve the wellbeing and safety of children and families in Leeds. Children and young people in Leeds want to be able to travel safely and easily, which is why we have spotlighted this as the Child Friendly Leeds Wish for March.

“The council’s Vision Zero strategy aims to eliminate fatal and serious road injuries from our city by 2040, with active travel programmes playing a crucial role in supporting this ambition. I look forward to more schools getting involved with the programme, paving the way for continued success in the years to come.”

Active Travel Ambassador for Leeds City Council, Alistair Brownlee, said: “As Active Travel Ambassador for Leeds it’s great to hear that so many young students are engaging with active travel and trying to make a difference in their communities.

“I used to cycle from Horsforth to my secondary school in Bradford and I know first-hand how important active travel solutions are to the success of young people getting safely and sustainably to school. I wish we’d had similar schemes when I was young to feed into.

“By empowering our youth to become ambassadors of change, we are laying the foundation for a healthier, more vibrant future for Leeds.”