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Over 40 percent of kids have experienced a ‘near miss’ on school journey, says survey

Sustrans calls for safer streets for kids; parents say road threat bigger than stranger danger

Riding or walking to school could be a lot safer, says active travel charity Sustrans, citing the results of a new survey that shows 41 percent of parents say their kids have been involved in some sort of ‘near miss’ while walking or cycling to or from school.

Sustrans today launched its Campaign for Safer Streets. The charity is urging parents to write to their local MP to demand every child be given the right to a safe journey to school.

Safe routes to school has long been a plank of Sustrans’s campaigning platform. Schoolchildren are among the most vulnerable road users, and enabling them to ride or walk to school safely has huge benefits in maintaining their fitness and helping them develop resourcefulness and independence.

The number of children killed or injured on the roads has dropped substantially in recent years, but some commentators have pointed out that this has been at the expense of children’s mobility. If kids are not walking or riding, they’re less likely to get hurt, but the resulting lack of activity contributes to the problem of childhood obesity.

In a survey conducted by YouGov for Sustrans, parents of 5-11 years olds were asked about unsafe roads and unsafe driving that had resulted in a ‘near-miss’ between their child and a vehicle on the way to or from school. Of the parents surveyed:

  • 18% said their child had experienced a vehicle not stopping or stopping too late at a pedestrian crossing
  • 13% said their child had experienced a speeding vehicle nearly hitting them while crossing the road
  • 5% said their child had been hit by a vehicle while walking

Parents are more concerned about road danger than ‘stranger danger’, the survey discovered. Forty-four percent were most concerned about their child crossing the road safely, compared to 28 per cent of parents most concerned about stranger danger.

Sustrans chief executive, Malcolm Shepherd said: “In 2012, 33 children were killed and more than 1800 were seriously injured while walking or cycling – if a whole classroom of children had been killed under other circumstances there would be public outcry.

“And there’s a simple solution in our hands. We must urgently make our roads safer for those children already making a healthy, active school run and also to encourage those who don’t feel safe enough to start walking or cycling.

“With today’s children the least physically active in history, and set to have shorter life expectancies than their parents because of this, shuttling kids to and from the school gate in the car is not the answer.

“Giving children the opportunity to walk, scoot of cycle the school run is vital to their health and wellbeing so making our roads safe enough that they can do this must be a top priority.

“Every child has the right to a safe journey to school; I urge the government to make this a reality – it’s a matter of life and death.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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