Why is travelling actively to school important?

By Chris Bennett,
Pupils cycling, walking and scooting during Big Pedal 2018

According to government guidelines, children and young people aged 5 to 18 need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, while adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes a week.

At 1.6 miles, the average primary school journey is a distance that can be cycled, walked or scooted as an easy way of building more activity into our busy lives.

Exercise is not only great for physical health, it can also boost mental health and wellbeing.

Physical activity can increase mental alertness, energy, positive mood and self-esteem, as well as reducing stress and anxiety, according to the Mental Health Foundation. 

Teachers find that pupils who cycle, walk or scoot arrive at school more relaxed, alert and ready to start the day than those who travel by car.

Cycling, walking or scooting to school also increases awareness of road safety as well as boosting independence for children.

And yet, the proportion of children walking and cycling to school has been declining in England since 1995. The number of children being driven to primary school is increasing each year - as many as one in four cars on the road during the morning peak are on the school run.

What are we doing about it?

From 25 March to 5 April 2019 Sustrans will be running the Big Pedal,the UK’s biggest cycling, walking and scooting competition. For two weeks, thousands of schools from across the UK will compete with one another to make the most journeys by bike, foot or scooter.

The Big Pedal is part of Sustrans Transforming the School Run programme and the objective of this initiative is to demonstrate what is possible when schools, parents and local authorities work together.

There is evidence that schools that have participated in Big Pedal in previous years have increased their level of active commuting to school.

Instilling a love of cycling, walking or scooting in children from a young age has long-lasting benefits: as well as developing road awareness to encourage independent travel as a teenager, it can also create good habits for a more active adult life.

How you can support the Big Pedal

Active travel to school benefits us all. More people cycling, walking and scooting to school ultimately means there are fewer cars on the road, less pollution and less congestion outside the school gates.

Up to 40,000 early deaths are attributable to air pollution each year in the UK. Road transport is responsible for 80% of the pollution where legal limits are being broken and children are particularly affected.

Which is why we need your help to promote Sustrans Big Pedal 2019 which is taking place from 25 March to the 5 April.

Local Authorities, Academy Chains and other organisations can all play a role in promoting the Big Pedal to the schools they work with by becoming a Big Pedal Promoter.

Being a Big Pedal promoter is easy and free. Email [email protected] and say you want to be a Big Pedal promoter. We’ll provide you with promoter account and all the tools so you can track schools in your area encourage them to sign up to Sustrans Big Pedal 2019.