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Protected bike lanes on school routes must be urgent government priority, says Sustrans

The active travel charity has called for “long-term safety barriers” to be removed, after a recent survey found that just 14 percent of parents feel very confident teaching their children to cycle on the road

Active travel charity Sustrans has urged the government and local authorities to guarantee protected cycle lanes on all main road routes to schools.

The Bristol-based charity says that a renewed focus on active travel infrastructure should be an urgent priority for Liz Truss’ Conservative government, as it would help embed new habits in people across the UK who have been forced to change the way they travel due to the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Sustrans’ call for more and better cycling infrastructure, especially around schools, comes in the middle of Cycle to School Week, when families are encouraged to ditch the car and ride their bikes to and from school.  

The primary aim of the annual themed week is to help foster crucial behavioural change among young people which will, it is hoped, inspire a preference for active travel that will continue into adulthood.

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But for Cycle to School Week to be a success, Sustrans says, “long-term barriers” that have prevented people on bikes from feeling welcome and safe on the roads need to be removed.

According to a recent YouGov poll, just 14 percent of parents felt very confident teaching their child to cycle safely on public roads using the Highway Code. Meanwhile, 59 percent of those surveyed believe that safe cycle routes offer a key solution which would make parents feel more confident to allow their child to cycle to school.

“Engaging this generation of younger school pupils with cycling and teaching them the importance of travelling actively, will only have lasting impact if we all strive to make sure children and families feel safe and welcome on the road,” says Sustrans’ Chief Executive Xavier Bruce.

“That’s why this Cycle to School Week, Sustrans calls on Local Authority leaders and the Government to show real ambition and commit to installing protected cycle lanes along main road routes to schools.”

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Sustrans’ 2021 Walking and Cycling Index, which surveyed roughly 26,000 people, also found that 65 percent of respondents want cycle tracks that are physically protected from traffic, while 58 percent of people on low incomes would welcome more government spending on walking and wheeling initiatives.

Brice pointed out that prioritising active travel could address some of the UK’s most pressing concerns at the moment, including health problems, air pollution, and by “freeing people from the expensive and restrictive lifestyles of car overuse”.

“Parents know cycling is a great way to get about cheaply and healthily, and to connect with other people in their community, which cars simply cannot achieve,” Brice added. “Now more than ever, we must make it easier and more attractive for people everywhere to walk, wheel and cycle.

“With new leadership from Prime Minister Truss, there is fresh opportunity to renew our transport priorities for what the UK people need. It is vital active travel is embedded into in our transport system and that roads are safer for all.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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