Switching to foot, bike or scooter would save average parent £642 per year

Sustrans says that parents who take their children to school by car could save an average of £642 each year if they let their offspring walk, cycle, or use a scooter instead – adding up to a potential collective saving of £2 billion annually. Last week, it revealed that more than half of Glasgow’s schoolchildren travel to their place of study on foot, or by bike or scooter.

The sustainable transport charity has based its calculations on data from a number of sources relating to the cost of motoring and how children travel to school, including the AA, the Department for Education’s Schools Survey, and the Active People Survey from the Department for Transport.

The figures have been released to coincide with Sustrans’ annual Bike to School Week, which started yesterday, and which aims to encourage parents – as well as schools – to promote more active ways of travel among children, highlighting that 28 per cent of Britain’s children aged under 16 are now classified as either overweight or obese.

Nearly half of primary kids get to school by car

According to Sustrans, across Great Britain the average child at primary school lives 1.8 miles away, which the charity says equates to a journey of 25 minutes on foot, or 15 minutes by bike or scooter; yet it says that nearly half – 44 per cent – make the journey there by car, and only 2 per cent travel by bike.

The charity’s head of policy and campaigns, Claire Francis, said: “There are massive financial and health benefits to both children and parents in choosing to cycle, scoot or walk to school, instead of drive.

“With lots of people feeling the pinch, leaving the car at home can be a cheaper and more enjoyable way to the school gates.

“We know that safety is a concern for some parents so to encourage more people to leave the car at home we want the government to do more to encourage parents to cycle and walk to school by introducing reduced speeds and better infrastructure.”

Sustrans is continuing to run its Campaign for Safer Streets, and says that parents should write to their MP “to demand every child be given the right to a safe journey to school.”

Glasgow bucks the trend

One city that appears to be bucking the national trend is Glasgow, according to figures released separately by Sustrans Scotland last week as part of its annual Hands Up Scotland survey of nearly half a million children, which is funded by Transport Scotland.

In Scotland’s largest city, which is gearing up to host the Commonwealth Games in a month and a half’s time, more than half of schoolchildren undertake their journeys on a bike, scooter, or by walking.

In all, 55.4 per cent of 20,000 children surveyed in the city arrive at school under their own power, says Sustrans – 2.7 per cent of them by bike, nearly double the 1.4 per cent recorded in 2008, 1.9 per cent by scooter or skating, and 50.8 per cent walking.

Only slightly over one in four – 27.2 per cent – are driven to school, well below the average seen across Great Britain as a whole, perhaps explained by the urban setting.

Some 9.3 per cent of Glasgow’s schoolchildren travel by bus, while 4.9 per cent undertake the journey partly by car, partly by foot, in what Sustrans terms “park and stride.”

John Lauder, national director for Sustrans Scotland, said: “It is fantastic to see that half of our young people are travelling to school actively – on foot, by bike, by scooter or by skating.

“Encouraging active travel habits at an early age is vital and will set children up to lead healthy, active lives in the future,” he added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.