The new school year is well underway and offers the ideal opportunity for a fresh start after the long summer break. A new beginning could be the perfect time for you to think about your current travel arrangements and transform your journey to school.
The average primary school journey is just 1.6 miles, and yet one in four cars on the road during the morning rush hour are doing the school run.
There are so many benefits to encouraging children to walk, cycle and scoot more regularly to school. It will reduce congestion and pollution around the school gates and it will also help your child’s mental and physical health. Teachers find that pupils who walk and cycle arrive at school more relaxed, alert and ready to start the day than those who travel by car.
Cumbria County Council’s Active Travel team has shared their top 10 reasons to shake up your school run, and is offering schools lots of opportunities to sign up to a variety of initiatives to help promote sustainable travel to school throughout the year.
Feet First, aimed at Infant and Primary schools, is a project which rewards sustained active travel and begins after the Autumn half term – schools and children love it and those wanting to sign up must do so before October.
Other annual campaigns and projects include Walk to School Week, The Big Pedal, Bikeability, Bike to School Week, Walking Buses and School Travel Plans.
For further information and to sign up to Feet First, contact Judith Aris or Nancy Sloan in the council’s Active Travel team – www.cumbria.gov.uk/activetravel
Here are Active Travel’s top 10 reasons to walk, cycle or scoot to school:
1. Cycling, scooting or walking the school run is an easy way of building physical activity into the whole family’s daily routine.
According to government guidelines, children and young people aged 5 to 18 need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, while adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes a week. At 1.6 miles, the average primary school journey is a distance that can be cycled, scooted or walked as an easy way of building more activity into our busy lives.
2. Not only is it great for your physical health, but it can also boost mental health and wellbeing.
Physical activity can increase mental alertness, energy, positive mood and self-esteem, as well as reducing stress and anxiety, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
3. It’s a great way to start the day – not just for kids but for parents too.
Teachers find that pupils who walk, cycle or scoot arrive at school more relaxed, alert and ready to start the day than those who travel by car. Parents can benefit in the same way and burn some precious calories along the way – a 20-minute bike ride can use the same amount of calories as a cappuccino, a bar of chocolate or a 175ml glass of wine.
4. More people cycling, scooting or walking ultimately means there are fewer cars on the road, helping ease congestion outside the school gates.
The proportion of children walking and cycling to school has been declining in England since 1995, with the number being driven to primary school increasing each year – as many as one in four cars on the road during the morning peak are on the school run. Leaving the car at home means you’ll take the hassle out of parking too.
5. Fewer cars means less pollution, making the air we breathe cleaner for everyone.
Up to 40,000 early deaths are attributable to air pollution each year in the UK – only smoking contributes to more early deaths. Road transport is responsible for 80% of the pollution where legal limits are being broken and children are particularly affected. What’s more, those who travel by car can experience five times higher pollution levels than those who cycle and three and a half times more than those walking the same route. Not only is air pollution harmful to humans, it also affects animal and plant life.
6. Cycling, scooting or walking to school increases children’s awareness of road safety as well as boosting independence.
Instilling a love of cycling, scooting or walking in children from a young age has long-lasting benefits – as well as developing road awareness to encourage independent travel as a teenager, it can also create good habits for an active adult life.
7. Walking, scooting or cycling provides the perfect opportunity to connect with the world around you.
Cycling, scooting and walking brings you closer to nature and the changes in the seasons. Whether it’s spotting wildlife or noticing the leaves changing colour on the trees, two wheels are better than four when it comes to connecting with nature and get to know your local area.
8. You’ll save money
Cycling, scooting or walking the school run will save you and your family a small fortune. Not only will you be forking out less on petrol, but you might also save money on gym fees, leaving you with more cash in your pocket.
9. It benefits us all
From health to road safety, retail and tourism, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the economic benefits of cycling and walking. In England alone, 10 billion annual journeys are undertaken every year by bike and on foot, with an estimated combined economic value of £14 billion.
10. And if all that’s not enough, just think of all the fresh air, freedom and fun you’ll have along the way.
Taking time out of your day to cycle, scoot or walk together is a great chance to catch up on your child’s day and spend quality time with each other while enjoying the fresh air and freedom of active travel.