Ministers Urged to Support Active School Travel
In an open letter to UK Transport Ministers, a group of health and transport specialists have urged Ministers to ditch a “windscreen perspective” and reverse a 42-year decline in children’s mobility.
Writing in the BMJ, the authors note:
“The rhetoric of improving the environment in favour of children’s active travel has been visible for at least two decades but tangible changes have largely been absent from transport planning. We suggest that the time is right to redress the imbalance and give back to today’s children many of the freedoms that older adults recall and benefited from in terms of the levels of independent mobility.”
Highlighting increased car use on the school run – almost half of primary pupils are now driven – the authors suggest 10% of national infrastructure budgets be put toward better routes for walking and cycling, because the “default choice” of car travel is damaging children’s health, not just through inactivity, but also because air pollution becomes concentrated inside vehicles.
Of course, it isn’t just a matter of children’s independence and health. The authors highlight the wider benefits to physical and mental health, the public purse and improvements in air quality and travel time that would result from a sensible level of investment in active travel.
With Transport Scotland doubling their investment in active travel, it would be great to think that the rest of the UK will follow suit, especially considering the myriad benefits which come from reduced reliance on motor cars. However, while we puzzle over the lack of investment from Westminster, we need to consider; what can be done right here and now in Jesmond?
After all, we don’t want our kids to end up like Alex.