When our schools fully reopen after their pandemic lockdown the Government is asking parents, staff and pupils to, where possible, walk or cycle to school rather than use public transport and their cars.
Doing so helps with social distancing. It also reduces pressure on bus services with a much-reduced capacity, whilst not adding to congestion at peak times.
However, there are lots of other reasons why encouraging more pupils to cycle to school makes sense.
Childhood obesity is a growing concern. Only 60 per cent of boys and 40 per cent of girls are getting the minimum of an hour’s moderate physical activity a day they need to stay healthy.
On average children now spend more time sat in a car travelling to school than the time allocated to physical education on the school curriculum.
Currently only four per cent of children cycle to school nationally. That’s despite nearly half saying they’d like to and the vast majority living within a reasonable cycling distance.
That more don’t cycle is largely linked to safety concerns, but these are nowhere near as high as perceived.
In most situations the risks can also be minimised and are more than offset by the longer-term health benefits.
Cycling to school improves a child’s physical health. They are more alert, less stressed and sleep better. It helps improve a child’s independence and self-confidence. There’s even clear evidence that their academic performance improves.
There are wider community benefits too. Cars on the school run account for about 20 per cent of traffic at the 8am -9am peak. They add to congestion, cause major parking and safety problems around the school gate and contribute to air pollution including nitrogen dioxide – a pollutant that stunts children’s growth and increases risks of asthma and lung cancer.
Parents themselves also benefit. They don’t have to spend time on the school run, an activity estimated to collectively cost them £520 million a year.
Bike to School Week is an annual event promoted by the sustainable travel charity Sustrans. It is usually held in June, but this year it takes place from September 28-October 2.
So, whether you’re a parent, teacher, school governor or councillor why not encourage your local school to dust down its Travel Plan and use Bike Week as a focus around which to plan a longer-term change in your schools travel habits?