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‘Given encouragement, children will shun cars and cycle instead’

How do you solve a problem like the congested school run? Sustrans believes it has the answer.

According to the sustainable transport charity, over 1.3 million miles of car journeys to school – the equivalent to two return trips to the moon – have been avoided in schools that have dedicated walking, cycling and scooting projects run by charity Sustrans over the last academic year.

Schools that worked with the charity have seen cycling nearly double from 8.5% of children regularly cycling to school, to 16% cycling a year after working with the charity. There was also a near 4% decrease in children being regularly driven to school.

Logically, if similar programmes were adopted across the UK it could mean a potential reduction of 66 million miles of car journeys made to school annually, says Sustrans.

The charity surveyed over 75,000 children in 411 of the 2,400 schools in which it works and found that after a year of activity children were far more likely to travel under their own steam to school. So that’s less traffic, less Co2, children that are more healthy in body and mind and numerous other ‘no-brainer’ advantages.

Sustrans chief exec Malcolm Shepherd said: “In schools where we work many more children are walking, cycling and scooting, helping to improve physical and mental health. We know that even more parents and children do want to leave the car at home but are put off by traffic danger.

“That’s why it’s essential we make the environment between our homes and schools safer so more children can get to school under their own steam, improving their health and reducing traffic on our clogged up roads.

“To give our children a safe and healthy journey to school, the government must commit to proper funding for the new Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy of at least £10 per head, rising to £20 per head. An important element of this fund should include £200m a year to support active travel in schools.”

Sustrans added that it works intensively in schools to enable a culture of children getting to school by foot, bicycle or scooter. By giving children the skills and information they need to get to school in these ways it gives parents the peace of mind to let them. This has far-reaching and profound benefits for children’s health and well-being, independence and social development, as well as reducing traffic congestion and pollution around schools. 

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