Survey results published as Big Pedal 2019 begins, with record 2,200 schools taking part


Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of teachers want a ban on parents dropping off and picking up their children by car outside school gates according to a new survey from Sustrans.

The survey of 840 teachers was carried out by YouGov to coincide with the launch of this year’s Sustrans Big Pedal, in which a record 2,200 schools will participate.

Teachers were also asked about their attitudes towards air quality, with more than half (59 per cent) saying that they wanted to see urgent action taken to reduce air pollution.

A third (34 per cent) believed that encouraging more people to walk, scoot or cycle would help achieve that, followed by educating the school community on the cause and effects of air pollution (28 per cent) and school road closures (26 per cent).

Other findings, according to Sustrans, included:

Over half (59 per cent) cited a lack of other routes for motor traffic as one of the main barriers to closing the road outside the school

Almost half of the respondents (48 per cent) cited that driving is a more convenient option for families and is one of the biggest obstacles to more people walking, scooting or cycling the school run

More than one in three (36 per cent) said they need support from parents to enact change on the school run and 27 per cent said they need backing from local authorities

One in three teachers (30 per cent) are worried about air pollution, with 43 per cent stating idling car engines outside the school gates cause concern, while a further 63 per cent cited it’s a concern because the school is based on or near a busy main road

The number of teachers concerned about air pollution near their school rose to 55 per cent in London.

Sustrans CEO Xavier Brice commented: “We need to radically change the way we travel. Idling car engines and snarled up roads poison the air and our children’s bodies across the UK.

“For too long now, dangerous levels of air pollution near schools have been ignored. Finally this is starting to change. Our survey makes it clear that teachers want urgent action to clean up toxic fumes. They see closing the roads outside their school as an effective solution but need support from local authorities to enact change.

“Across the UK, councillors that care about their young constituents are leading the way by implementing school street closures during the school run, to reduce air pollution and create a safer environment for families to walk and cycle. We want to see more. Our 39 closures for the Big Pedal show it’s possible.

“Young people across the world are taking action for a better future. Isn’t it time we did too? We urge local authorities to follow their peers and call on Governments across the UK to support local authorities and implement clean air legislation to tackle motorised traffic, including large scale investment in walking and cycling to enable more people to choose active and cleaner ways to travel for local journeys,” he added.

This year’s Big Pedal takes place from today, 25 March, to 5 April and for the first time will see 39 schools across the country close their streets to motor traffic for a day, in partnership with Sustrans, Playing Out and local authorities.

Sophie Gallois, Unicef UK’s director of advocacy and communications at Unicef UK, said: “Every day, one in three children in the UK is breathing in harmful levels of air pollution that could damage their health and impact their future.

“Worryingly, children are most exposed to toxic air on the school run and while at school, so a ban on motor vehicles outside the schools gates has potential to make a real difference. Reducing children’s exposure to air pollution is not just about the school street itself, but also taking quieter routes to school, away from busy main roads.

“The Government must take urgent action to tackle this growing health crisis by putting children’s health at the heart of its work on air pollution,” she added.

“That includes focusing interventions on places where children are most exposed to toxic air, like schools, and promoting behavioural changes that will create real impact for children now and in the future.”

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.