Swap your car for leg power on the school run this October

Living Streets, the charity behind the biggest walk to school campaign and The Bikeability Trust are encouraging families to leave the car at home this month.

October is International Walk to School Month and Cycle to School Week runs from 3 to 7 October 2022.

Cycle to School Week encourages families and schools to celebrate cycling. Participants can choose between pledging to swap one car journey for cycling, cycle to school every day, cycle with their family or discover somewhere new on a cycle ride.

Schools are also encouraged to spur their pupils on to take part in Cycle to School Week, using presentations, activities and lesson plans created by the Bikeability Trust and Sustrans. The resources will be available throughout the year, allowing schools to continue the conversation around active travel beyond Cycle to School Week.

On average, according to Cycling UK, just 2.2% of children cycle to school and a whopping 35.4% are driven to school. The average journey to school is just 2.4 miles, which would take a young cyclist about 15 minutes – likely a shorter time than it would take to drive.

As the cost of living crisis continues to impact families, swapping the car for a cycle or for walking is a cost-effective way to support household budgets. Families who swap their daily school run in the car for leg power could save almost £160 a year.

If just one child cycled to school instead of travelling in the car for a year, it would save almost half a tonne in carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to growing eight trees for a decade or charging 58,388 mobile phones. 

Cycling or walking to school reduces congestion, improves air quality and makes neighbourhoods quieter and more pleasant places to live.

Children are ready to cycle to school independently once they’ve completed their Bikeability Level 2, which teaches them the skills they need to cycle confidently and safely on the roads. Children in Year 5 and Year 6 who have taken part in Bikeability should be able to cycle to school by themselves or with friends.

Emily Cherry, CEO at The Bikeability Trust, said, “I am so proud that the Bikeability Trust is taking the lead on Cycle to School Week, in partnership with our friends at Sustrans. It’s so important that children are active and a cycling commute is great for the health – and purses! – of the whole family, as well as our planet. We have already trained over four million children to cycle, and we are excited to celebrate the joys of cycling across the UK in October.

“By working with schools and families to encourage a more active school run, we’re now embedding healthy habits in the next generation. I will be pledging to discover a new cycle ride with my family this Cycle to School Week, what will yours be?”

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets said, “We all saw the benefits to our health and air quality when we walked more and drove less [during COVID.] Quieter streets are safer, cleaner and healthier streets. Where possible we should avoid a return to the car and instead walk, wheel or cycle our short journeys.

“Making small changes can also help alleviate some of the rising living costs we are all facing, while we reap the health, social and environmental benefits of moving more.”

Councils throughout the UK are also discouraging car use around schools using the school streets initiative. A School Street is a stretch of road outside a school that is temporarily closed to traffic during school drop-off and pick-up times. This then limits traffic in the road outside the school at key times and creates a predominantly car-free zone.

The scheme encourages travelling to school by walking and cycling or scooting and will in turn reduce the build-up of traffic outside the school gates, improve air quality and create a safer and more pleasant environment for everyone around schools.

Five Wirral schools are currently trialling the Safer School Streets scheme:

  • Greenleas Primary School, Wallasey
  • Christchurch Primary School, Birkenhead
  • Liscard Primary School, Liscard
  • St George’s Primary School, Wallasey
  • Raeburn Primary School, Bromborough

Images: Ed Lamb

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