Sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, today published the results from the second annual Hands-Up Scotland Survey. In 2009, more than 415,000 children or approximately 59 per cent of all pupils in Scotland took part in the survey, providing a detailed insight in to how children across the country travel to school.
Hands-Up Scotland is a partnership between Sustrans and local authority School Travel Coordinators. Results collated from the survey in September 2009 show a 1.3 percentage point drop in the number of children walking to school and a 0.5 percentage point decrease in the number of children cycling on the same journey, whilst the amount of children being driven to school has increased by just over one percentage point.
John Lauder, National Director, Sustrans Scotland, comments, “Whilst the results from this survey are disappointing compared to last year, the findings highlight the need for government at local and national levels to maintain sustained and focused investment to encourage children to travel actively. It is known that the benefits to health and wellbeing resulting from children travelling actively offer a great return on investment, particularly when public funding is tight.
“The small decrease in the number of children travelling actively to school in Scotland is a shame; however half of all journeys to school are still made on foot, by bike or by scooter. The forthcoming Cycling Action Plan will place the school journey as one of its aims and this must be matched with focused funding.”
13 of the 31 local authorities that took part in the survey in 2009 have seen an increase in some modes of active travel. West Lothian, for example, saw levels of walking rise by nearly four percentage points and cycling levels increase by 0.2 percentage points.
John Lauder continues, “There are some rays of light in this survey –a number of areas are continuing to increase active travel levels amongst children in Scotland, although we’ve still got a long way to go. We welcome the recent spending increase of £10m for sustainable transport and the important role it will play in encouraging more children to cycle and walk to school.”
The results of this year’s Hands-Up Scotland Survey also support the findings of the recently published enquiry into active travel by the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, which concluded that, “Stronger, more effective and sustained leadership is required from the Scottish Government in order to implement improvements to walking and cycling policies inScotland.”
Monitoring results from Sustrans’ flagship ‘Tackling the School Run’ programme in 2007-08 highlight that where money is invested in promoting active travel to school, the number of children travelling to school by cycle or on foot can rise sharply. This has a positive effect on local traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as children’s health.
Results from Sustrans’ ‘Tackling the School Run’ programme for 2007-08 indicate:
• A doubling (on average) of the use of cycling and walking routes around schools where new paths have been constructed or upgraded
• It is estimated that as a result of the funding in 2007-08 alone 135,690 more cycling and walking trips to school were made throughout Scotland
• As a result of the funding in 2007-08 approximately 30,929 pupils across Scotland now have access to safer walking and cycling routes to school
The Scottish Government has set a target of increasing all trips made by bike to 10 per cent by 2020 in its forthcoming Cycling Action Plan. John Lauder adds, “It is clear that, where money is spent on making walking and cycling safer or easier, the number of children walking and cycling increases. In addition, much can be done to make environments safer and more pleasant for walking and cycling for little financial cost. Finally, there will need to be significant leadership at a local and national level if the Government is to realise its aim laid out in the Cycling Action Plan.”