Pull out all the (bus) stops this National Walking Month

Tony Armstrong
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This week is Walk to School Week and Living Streets, led by its Walk to School mascot, Strider, has been calling on children and their families across the country to give walking ago. A YouGov¹ poll commissioned by Living Streets found that over a quarter of parents (27%) of children of primary school age automatically drive their children to school and one in five (21%) had never even considered walking.

While that clearly means a lot of children are missing out on the health benefits of some daily physical activity and the road safety skills and confidence it can offer, there is a wider picture.

Living Streets launched Walk to School Week at Westminster with a half-term report on the Coalition Government’s progress on encouraging active travel on the way to school.

The transport section of the 2010 Coalition Programme for Government states, “We will support sustainable travel initiatives, including the promotion of cycling and walking, and will encourage joint working between bus operators and local authorities.” Three years on and with two years remaining until the next General Election, Living Streets conclusion was that the Coalition Must Try Harder.

The school run accounts for around 23% of vehicles on the road at peak times negatively impacting on traffic congestion and local economies. It is ironic that parents who drive their children to school cite heavy traffic as one of their concerns about their children walking to school. Encouraging walking to school should be part of a long-term strategic approach to creating a safer and environmentally cleaner walking environment for everyone.

Living Streets is calling for continuation of funding through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, new national data collection methods to monitor progress and an emphasis on improving the walking environment.

Clearly the bus network has a pivotal role in reducing car journeys and hopping off a stop or two early is an easy way to build some walking into your day. We know that the majority of children do not get the recommended daily hour of exercise and that keeping children active and healthy now will ensure they are active and healthier adults in the future.

[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,009 GB parents of children aged 5 to 11, Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st-6th May 2013.  The survey was carried out online.

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