With almost 9 out 10 of children not meeting physical activity guidelines, making cycling safer and more accessible to young people, would help to increase regular exercise.
Only 11% of children surveyed by Growing Up in Scotland met the recommended 60 minutes of activity every day.
Meanwhile, the latest Hands Up Scotland Survey shows that less than half of children travel actively to school, and only 3.6% cycle to school. These regular journeys are key in helping more children to live physically active, healthier lives.
Exercise should be part of a daily routine
Increasing the number of pupils cycling to school would provide children with the moderate intensity of exercise required every day.
Walking or cycling to school is an easy way to get regular exercise, and even if it doesn’t meet the 60 minute daily target, it would have a major impact and help some to meet the goal.
There are also co-benefits through the reduction in air pollution, less congestion around schools and children are more attentive in class and get better grades.
To get more children on their bikes, two things are needed. The first is behavioural – encouraging more young people to cycle and helping them to overcome personal barriers.
“ In I Bike schools 11% of pupils report ‘regularly’ cycling to school, compared to the 3.6% average. ”
Shift to active travel
Sustrans Scotland’s I Bike project works in schools across Scotland to help young people to cycle, and has been successful in increasing regular cycling.
In I Bike schools 11% of pupils report ‘regularly’ cycling, compared to the 3.6% average.
The study also found that on average boys were doing 10 minutes more physical activity than girls every day.
I Bike seeks to bridge the gender gap that sees far fewer girls than boys cycling to school, because cycling should be something that everyone can do.
Safer routes to school
But the second thing that an increase in cycling to school requires is safer routes, which would make more people feel able to cycle.
One thing that Sustrans Scotland know would make a big difference to people feeling safer on a bike is slower traffic speeds. And right now you can have your say on a consultation into making 20mph speed limits in residential areas the default.
We also need more funding for local authorities to deliver safe cycling routes, segregated from traffic where needed, to give people confidence and make cycling the easy choice.
When cycling is an easy choice for everyone to make their regular, day-to-day journeys we will see many more children living active, healthier lives.