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The KES 2020 Sustainable Commute Challenge – Chapter 2

The KES 2020 Sustainable Commute Challenge

Philip Butler – My Dad – The reason I walk, run and cycle to school (Happy Father’s Day, PB!)

In last week’s KES Issue 6, Advait challenged us to walk to school from September. As it is Father’s Day this weekend, this chapter of the Great KES 2020 Sustainable Commute Challenge is inspired by my Dad, Philip Butler, who first got me walking and cycling to school.

My Dad is 71 and has just retired after 50 years working five days a week, 47 weeks a year in London. That’s about 12,000 working days, or 24,000 10-mile commutes – either on foot, by bike, or on train. That distance by car would have emitted about 120 tonnes of CO2, without traffic, but this was London in rush hour (imagine Edgbaston Park Road at 4pm on a rainy Monday, multiply it by 10, add more honking and lorries and you get the idea) so you can probably triple that figure of CO2 saved.

He walked – rain or shine.  

And on his way, every day, after making me a bowl of hot porridge and honey, he used to walk me a mile or so to primary school – rain or shine – chatting all the way. And then I’d walk the same route home at the end of the day. Looking back, and talking to KES Shells about their own commutes to school, and their parents’ influence, I’ve realised that it must have been my Dad’s company and example which had a profound impact on how I move this body of mine from A to B.

When I moved schools, aged eight, my friend and I practised the walk and the road crossings to our new school before term started, and then walked in together, chatting away, each and every morning, rain or shine. We walked – cricket kit, trombone, books and all – every day for 10 years. If I was late, which was often, I ran. Every trip was a chance to become street-wise and road-savvy. Once, we decided to stop and pick up every bit of litter we found on our way. We found a fiver in the gutter and split it – chocolate for weeks. Once we found a man lying on the pavement, having a heart-attack, and called an ambulance. We were the last people he spoke to. 12,000 journeys – all different.

I learnt to drive when I was 17, but was banned from driving within six months when I was late home from a party. It was my Mum’s car: she did the banning, and it turned out to be one of the best parenting decisions ever. I started cycling everywhere – on my Dad’s steel-framed bike. It was my Dad who’d first patiently taught me to cycle, many summers before. (And it was my Mum who taught my own kids when I’d lost patience.)

When I left school, my first job, in a hospital, was a cycle-ride away, and it was on the ice that winter that I had my first and last major ice-skid – never ever cycle on ice. Teaching in Mexico, we walked or gently ran everywhere – it’s what people do. Teaching in Mozambique, our pupils would walk miles through the bush to school and back each day.  

During teacher training and in my first teaching job, I started cycling again, still on my Dad’s old steel bike, reliable as ever. When I became a parent, I finally bought my own bike and cycled to school via nursery with my daughter on the back, and later with one on the back and one on the front.

Since moving to KES, I’ve run or cycled every day, rain, shine and – the best – snow. When my daughters’ school was closed for snow two years ago, I pulled them to KES and back on a sled whilst they sang ‘jingle bells’… Good times.

My Dad’s now retired and is as fit as he was 20 years ago, which means he’s smashing out sub-25 minute Parkrun 5Ks most weeks, and enjoying cycling round London and beyond with my sister, using the quieter lockdown roads to teach her the safest commuting routes – again inspiring me to do the same with my daughters during lockdown. Yesterday, my wife and I did an experimental supermarket shop, trying to fit three weeks of food into four bike panniers and two rucksacks – possible but wobbly. Next purchase – a sturdy trailer.

Thanks Dad! Keep rolling…

And so, this week, I would like to dedicate the Great KES 2020 Commute Challenge to both my Dad and Mum, and also to the inspirational example of many KES cyclists among us, including those pictured below – Keith Philips and Chris Boardman – who have introduced generations of KES pupils and parents to cycling. And also to Martin Monks, Thom Wareing, Anne Ostrowicz, Ben Coates, Ed Aston, Andrew Pearson, Joel Abbott, Olivia Zamaniego, John Fennel, Laurence Evans, James Fair and especially Duncan Dewar – our most senior cyclist, and to the many other staff who have ever walked, hopped, pogoed, danced, skipped or cycled regularly or even occasionally to school. And lastly to the 15 KES pupils who cycled in every crisp January morning this year – you are already ahead of the curve – keep it up! Inspire others to do the same! And let us know how to make KES an even more cycle-friendly school.

The Great KES 2020 Sustainable Commute Challenge

Wherever possible, use lockdown to get ready to SAFELY* walk or cycle to school from this September.

Watch out for KES Cycle to School Society – starting next week

(*‘Safely’ means: a serviced bike with good brakes, a close-fitting helmet, hi-vis clothes, a constant light front and back, reflectors on pedals and front and back, and at least Bikeability Level 2 skill or equivalent experience in navigating our roads and cycle paths safely.)


“I love cycling to school – it wakes me up and I often feel like cycling past the school gate and off into the blue yonder.” KDP

“And he looks amazing in lycra.” JB

“The finest way to see the world.” CDB

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