Ditching cars for school run could save £2 billion a year, says Sustrans

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

by Simon_MacMichael   June 10, 2014  

Pont-y-Werin bridge Cardiff (photo: J Bewley/Sustrans)

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.

14 user comments

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But it's too dangerous to walk or cycle, because of all the cars.

@rich22222

posted by rich22222 [108 posts]
10th June 2014 - 20:02

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Government doesn't want this as it will lose hundreds of millions in fuel duty and VED if people ditch their cars totally.

Airzound

posted by Airzound [223 posts]
10th June 2014 - 22:32

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Do I have to dress my kids up like giant highlighter pens with poorly fitted helmets to join in?

posted by Sara_H [53 posts]
10th June 2014 - 22:37

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Airzound wrote:
Government doesn't want this as it will lose hundreds of millions in fuel duty and VED if people ditch their cars totally.

But the costs of mass motoring are more than motorists pay in tax.

"The perennial complaint from drivers that they are excessively taxed has been challenged by a study which concludes that road accidents, pollution and noise connected to cars costs every EU citizen more than £600 a year.

The report by transport academics at the Dresden Technical University in Germany calculated that even with drivers' insurance contributions discounted these factors amounted to an annual total of €373bn (£303bn) across the 27 EU member states, or around 3% of the bloc's entire yearly GDP. This breaks down as €750 per man, woman and child.

The report recommends that such so-called externalities be factored into the cost of driving, noting that even the €373bn tally does not include costs from congestion or ill health caused by lack of exercise.

The idea that drivers are "the cash cows of our society" is wrong, the authors write: "On the contrary, it must be stated that car traffic in the EU is highly subsidised by other people and other regions and will be by future generations: residents along an arterial road, taxpayers, elderly people who do not own cars, neighbouring countries, and children, grandchildren and all future generations subsidise today's traffic.""

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/25/car-pollution-noise-acciden...

posted by felixcat [204 posts]
10th June 2014 - 22:51

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Ever since I had a (very minor) collision with a car whilst out for a spin my wife will not allow me to take our daughter to the childminder (OK, not school but close enough) by bike. I should add that my wife also cycles reguarally and is confident on roads of all types.

The fact is it's a pretty unwelcoming environment on the roads where I live and there is no real 'quiet route' or similar. Practically speaking, it's also too far to walk.

Parents worry about the safety of thier children and this will always be the problem until road design catches up and our towns and cities becoming more bike-centric. For the time being I'm stuck with using the car and contributing to the problem.

posted by Matt eaton [315 posts]
10th June 2014 - 23:29

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Some parents will do the school run on the way to a work place only accessible by car. Many more will ignore rail routes next tithe school that service their workplace. It's those parents that need encouragement.

My local council is bringing in 20mph to improve the environment for walking and cycling. At the same time MerseyTravel are building a new car park at a local station only 6 blocks from the next station and again from the one after that. The car park will just encourage more residents who live within half a mile of the station to drive to it.

It's this illogical un-joined up thinking that is really slowing progress

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
11th June 2014 - 8:14

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Some people are simply too fat and lazy to walk or cycle to school with their kids. And you can see this in the kids, which is why so many are obese. My kids do a lot of sports (football and cycle racing) but they have plenty of friends who don't and even at a young age, are already beginning to bulk up while many of their parents long ago crossed that line. The fact is, obesity costs this country an absolute fortune.

Meanwhile the DfT has now worked out that reducing the number of short journeys made by motor vehicle will be of benefit in reducing congestion, not to mention pollution which causes additional costs in terms of public health.

For this to work though a lot of people need to get off their behinds.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
11th June 2014 - 8:52

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Parents won't let their kids walk to school because they know how dangerous they are themselves, driving their kids to school. If it weren't for all those other dangerous parents...

Catch 42

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posted by nowasps [245 posts]
11th June 2014 - 9:05

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I've cycled and trailered mine to school on occasions when I'm doing drop off and pickup but the wife usually does it and the girl don't ride and she's usually on the was home or going to work.
It does bother me as they all be better off getting some outdoor action.

posted by mrchrispy [283 posts]
11th June 2014 - 11:07

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"1.8 miles away, which the charity says equates to a journey of 25 minutes on foot", that's over 4 mph for a primary school child! More relaistic to say twice that time.

posted by spen [77 posts]
11th June 2014 - 19:11

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Guardian claptrap sort of thing Monbiot would write. Please explain to me if 80% of the driving population ditched their cars etc tomorrow in favour of cycling or walking it would be chaos! But also the Treasury would lose hundreds of millions of ££££££ in loss of duty whether fuel or VED. Please can you explain how you would make up this not so small shortfall?

Airzound

posted by Airzound [223 posts]
11th June 2014 - 22:57

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Airzound wrote:
Guardian claptrap sort of thing Monbiot would write. Please explain to me if 80% of the driving population ditched their cars etc tomorrow in favour of cycling or walking it would be chaos! But also the Treasury would lose hundreds of millions of ££££££ in loss of duty whether fuel or VED. Please can you explain how you would make up this not so small shortfall?

By chaos do you mean traffic jams? This is usually what motorists call it when they get in each other's way and can't go as fast as they want. Surely you know that pedestrians and cyclists take up much less room on the road.
Perhaps you mean that an overnight changeover would be very difficult? Well yes, it would be impossible, and a gradual change, similar to the gradual increase in motor traffic which got us here, would be more likely. I don't think that anyone suggested an overnight change.
People would be able to get where they are going much more easily.
Somewhere up thread I posted a link to a report which shows how much more motorists cost society than they pay. The gains in health from clean air, exercise and accident reduction would also save money. The real benefits would be in a happier, healthier population, free from the noise, stink and danger.
Children would grow up in freedom, instead of being carted about.
These gains would make the money lost worthwhile, even if it were true that there would be a loss. In fact, we would save money, as many studies show.
And then we come to climate change. The effect on government finances will not be a "shortfall" but much more disruptive. If we truly want to tackle CO2 emissions we must stop burning fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow, or there will be no tomorrow.

posted by felixcat [204 posts]
12th June 2014 - 8:21

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Airzound wrote:
Guardian claptrap sort of thing Monbiot would write.

It occurs to me that this is a reference to my link above. If you had troubled to look at the link you would have seen that it was to a study reported in the Guardian. I suppose you will be dismissing England football defeats as claptrap if you see a Guardian report of the match.

posted by felixcat [204 posts]
12th June 2014 - 8:51

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Reduction in driving would be a reduction in road repairs, health costs, fewer crashes will mean less call on the emergency services.

Fewer car journeys would reduce in lower tax but cars don't contribute enough to cover the cost of all the damage they do to society.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

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posted by ragtag [154 posts]
12th June 2014 - 20:12

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