Sustrans boss calls for safer streets as survey reveals "truly shocking" extent of short-hop school runs

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The chief executive of sustainable transport charity Sustrans has described the findings of a survey that revealed that one in ten children living within 500 yards of their school are driven there each day by their parents as “truly shocking.”

The survey, carried out by AOL-owned website Parentdish.co.uk among 2,000 parents of school-age children, also found that fewer of half of pupils walk to school and that one in three who are taken there in a car live less than a mile away, and that time pressures caused two thirds of parents who would prefer that their children walk to school take them there in the car instead.

Sustrans chief executive Malcoolm Shepherd called for a 20mph speed limit to be put in place nationally to make streets safer for children and said: “The number of children travelling such short distances to school by car remains truly shocking.

“Just walking or cycling for brief periods each day can be massively beneficial to children’s health, particularly with the obesity crisis continuing to grow.

“Parents must feel that roads are safe enough for their children to walk or cycle along, and the introduction of a 20mph national default speed limit in built up areas would make our roads safer, increase physical activity and improve children’s health.”

Sustrans says that its Bike It programme has led to the number of children riding a bike to school each day trebling at those schools where it has been put in place.

Tamsin Kelly, editor of Parentdish.co.uk, said: “Jumping in the car for the school run may be the easy option, especially when we're all so time pressed, but leaving a little more time to walk to school really does reap rewards for everyone.

"It's a time to give your children some undivided attention without the demands of home and work, and a brisk walk really does set them up for the start of the day."

The Campaign for Better Trasport’s Car Depedency Scorecard 2012, which we reported on yesterday, showed big fluctuations in the level of cycling and walking to school in the 27 English towns and cities analysed.

The organisation’s research found that in Cambridge, three in four children walk or cycle to school, but only around half did so in Gateshead, the lowest-ranked location analysed.

The research also found that London had a low ranking when it came to children walking or cycling to school, but said that a possible explanation was that under-18s in the capital who are in full-time education are eligible for free bus travel.