Published: 19th APRIL 2021

Increase in children’s concerns over air pollution

Half (49%) of UK school pupils are worried about air pollution near their school. That's an increase of 10 percentage points since a similar survey ran in 2018. We share the findings from our recent YouGov poll as we gear up for the UK's largest inter-school active travel competition, Big Pedal.

A close up photo of the legs of some school children walking to school

We recently commissioned A YouGov poll which surveyed 1,305 pupils aged six to 15 years old across the UK.

The poll asked them about their attitudes towards air pollution and the climate crisis.

And it included questions on the actions they think should be taken to help reduce the impact of poor air quality and climate change.
  

Children's views on the climate crisis

Of those surveyed, just over three fifths (62%) don’t think adults are doing enough to tackle climate change.

71% of the pupils admitting to feeling worried about climate change.

And just over half (53%) believing that adults don’t listen to children’s concerns about the topic.

Recognising that transport makes more greenhouse gases in the UK than anything else.

Private vehicle use, especially cars, makes up the biggest part of this.

And switching to active modes of transport was seen amongst respondents as the best way to help reduce the impacts of both air pollution and climate change.
  

What they thought about air pollution

40% of pupils thought more people walking, cycling or scooting to school was the best way to bring down levels of air pollution near their school.

38% thought that walking and cycling more for local journeys was the most important thing adults should be doing to tackle climate change overall – the highest-rated answer.
  

Other key findings 

The survey also revealed:

  • Almost three fifths (57%) of pupils described the environment around their school as having too many cars.
  • 30% of pupils are ‘worried’ and 29% are ‘sad’ that transport makes more greenhouse gases in the UK than anything else, with private vehicle use, especially cars, making up the biggest part of this.
  • Seven times as many pupils want to cycle to school and five times as many want to scoot to school more than they currently do. Whilst 2% currently cycle, 14% want to, and whilst 2% currently scoot to school, 10% would like to.
      

A green and fair recovery from Covid

Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, said:

"The results of this survey highlight the responsibility we have to create a healthier, greener and fairer society for the generation coming after us.

“There are a large number of cars on the road during the morning peak doing the school run.

"But swapping everyday journeys such as how we travel to and from school from private cars to active modes of travel can help cut dangerous levels of air pollution in our towns and cities which have a detrimental impact on the environment.

“That’s why we’re asking local election candidates and elected officials to ensure that every child has the opportunity and confidence to walk, wheel, scoot or cycle safely to school.

"They should be able to do this by using high-quality walking and cycling routes and to accelerate the roll-out of school streets.

"Let’s ensure our recovery from Covid is greener, fairer and healthier for everyone”.
  

Being active is good for our bodies and our brains

Dame Sarah Storey, British Paralympian and 76x World Record holder said:

"I am delighted to be at the launch of Big Pedal 2021.

"It is fantastic the event is running this year and I know it will have huge benefits to all who take part.

“It isn't just beneficial to our physical health that we use short journeys as an opportunity to be active, but it supports our mental wellbeing too.

“Children from across the country have also shared their view on how damaging poor air quality can be.

"And it is vital we use every opportunity we have to keep cars away from school gates and use active travel for as many of our short journeys as possible."
  

Big Pedal 2021

The survey has been released to launch the Big Pedal 2021.

It's the UK's largest inter-school active travel competition.

Held annually by Sustrans, this year’s challenge will see more than half a million children and young people walk, cycle, scoot and wheel their journeys to and from school.

   

Find out more about this year's Big Pedal and how you can get involved.

  

We're also running a Big Pedal family competition where you could be in with a chance of winning some amazing prizes. Read more about the competition and how to enter.

  
  

What do children really think about walking and cycling?

To kick off the launch of the Big Pedal and to highlight the findings from our YouGov survey, we hosted a live virtual Q&A session.

Groups of school children were invited to chat to our CEO Xavier Brice, and British Paralympian and 76 World Record holder, Dame Sarah Storey.

The children asked brilliant questions about walking and cycling and the environmental benefits of active travel.
  

Watch the video:

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