TRIPLE Olympic gold medalist Ed Clancy and South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard launched a new walking challenge with Barnsley children this week - and it’s hoped the scheme will allow more youngsters to get to school safely.

On Monday, the pair joined children from Joseph Locke Primary School to announced their new Walk and Wheel Challenge.

The challenge, held between June 17 and 28, encourages every primary school child in Barnsley to walk, wheel or cycle to school each day, to become more active and healthier.

It’s hoped the scheme will get youngsters across Barnsley keeping fit - a part of the mayor’s key manifesto commitments.

Ed Clancy, from Barnsley, told the Chronicle: “I’m always out and about to try and promote walking and cycling.

“For me personally I’m born in Barnsley and I grew up around here.

“My mum was a teacher in Mapplewell so it’s always great to try and promote what I believe in.

“The mayor has launched an event where we’ll push as many schools to walk and wheel.

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“No one believes in health and activity more than I do.

“For me it was the best thing in my life.

“Walking really is this magic pill.

“Research shows that kids that do even a bit of activity have better educational attainment and are healthier and happier.

“We don’t all end up as professional cyclists but it has a positive impact.

“So many communities here are just a stone’s throw away from some beautiful green spaces.

“We need places like that to give people an opportunity away from busy main roads and pollution.”

Mr Coppard admits that not enough children are able to walk to school safely, but hopes this project will encourage them to do so in the future.

“We just want everybody to have the freedom and the choice to get to school by walking, wheeling and cycling,” he said.

“Right now not enough kids can get to school safely and we want to make schools the centre of our plans for active travel.

“It’s brilliant to see so many kids out this morning.

“We’re really proud of what Barnsley is achieving.

“I’ve been involved in Barnsley for going on 20 years and have seen it change.

“It’s a credit to what the council have done.

“We’re investing in Barnsley, not just around the town centre, but all the stuff outside of the town.

“It’s fundamentally important.

“We need people, children in particular, to go out and be safe when walking and going out on their scooters.

“We want our schools to be the centre of our plans - it has to start at the school.”

Jim Shaw, project co-ordinator at Living Streets - the organisation hoping to get more kids walking to school, added: “Getting out of the front door in the morning with kids can be hectic, so it’s no surprise that parents say a lack of time stops them walking to school.

“However, walking the last ten minutes can still provide families with all those health and happiness benefits in the same time that they would have been sitting in traffic.”