Charity's call comes as it welcomes cash injection from new Health Lottery...

Sustrans believes that as many as 580 deaths and serious injuries involving children could be avoided if a 20mph speed limit were introduced on roads in urban areas in the UK currently subject to a 30mph limit. The news coincides with the sustainable transport charity being named one of the first beneficiaries of the recently launched Health Lottery.

The organisation, which made its appeal as the clocks went back last week, described the need for safer roads as “urgent” and also highlighted that the fact that a rise in the number of children travelling to school by car was not only helping fuel the rise in child obesity, but also restricted youngsters’ freedom.

Miranda Krestovnikoff, Ambassador for the Bristol-based charity’s Free Range Kids Campaign, said: “Britain’s approach to road safety is deeply flawed. Dressing our children in high-visibility clothes from head to toe does not tackle the source of the danger.

“What we need is to reduce traffic speeds in residential and urban areas to 20mph, and invest far more in creating safe walking and cycling routes, to school and beyond.

“If we don’t then our children will be denied the freedom we so enjoyed when we were kids, and miss out on so much that makes childhood special.”

Citing a 1990 report, One False Move - A Study of Children's Independent Mobility, by Hillman, Adams and Whitelegg, Sustrans said that three decades ago, 80 per cent of children aged seven or eight years walked or rode their bike to school on their own.

It added that according to the Department for Transport’s National Travel Survey 2009, that situation had now been reversed, with 80 per cent now undertaking the journey to school accompanied by an adult, with those trips increasingly likely to be made by car.

Sustrans launched its Free Range Kids campaign earlier this year with the aim of providing children with a greater opportunity to be active as well as independent. More information can be found on the charity’s website.

The campaign is also the subject of an Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled by Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield, which reads:

“That this House welcomes the launch of the Sustrans Free Range Kids campaign; calls on the Government to reverse the decline in the proportion of children walking and cycling to school; acknowledges the barriers which prevent children from being able to walk, cycle and play outside as a result of safety concerns; and urges Ministers across transport, health, environment and education briefs to work in a joined-up way to inspire, encourage and support local authorities to invest consistently and coherently over the next 10 years to create safe and pleasant environments for walking and cycling which will not only benefit the health of children but alsothe environment and communities.”

So far, 110 MPs have supported the EDM – a list of those appears here – and if your MP isn’t shown, you can write to them to ask them to back it through the website, Write To Them.

Meanwhile, Sustrans has been awarded £43,375 from the People’s Health Trust, the independent charity set up to distribute money raised through the Health Lottery, run by Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell group, which owns the Daily Express and Channel 5.

The launch of the Health Lottery has been accompanied by criticism of the amount per ticket put aside for good causes – currently 20.3 pence per pound, the legal minimum – its effect on other, smaller lotteries, and whether the way it has been set up contravenes the Gambling Act.

Those concerns have been rejected by the Health Lottery’s chief executive, Martin Hall, but last month Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed to House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee that the matter was being studied by the Gambling Commission.

In the meantime, Sustrans, which will use the money to support local ‘champions’ aiming to get more people active in their communities, has welcomed the funding, with the charity’s Wendy Johnson saying: “This is a great opportunity for local people to inspire and motivate the people around them, at work, at school or in their neighbourhoods, to be more active in their everyday lives.

“Our champions will be giving others confidence, skills and information to walk or cycle for more of their daily journeys, and helping them make a positive difference to their health in ways that don’t mean finding extra time or money.”

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.