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Wales has an ambition to be a walking and cycling nation. We were the first country in the world to pass a law, the Active Travel Act, requiring the planning and delivery of safe walking and cycling networks. That ambition has to start with our children. Yet currently less than half of Welsh primary school children and only a third of secondary school children walk or cycle to school. Fewer than one percent of Welsh Children ride a bike to primary school or secondary school on a typical day, in stark contrast to the Netherlands where 49% of all primary school children cycle to school.
To help enable more children and families to enjoy a healthier, greener school run, the Cross-Party Group on the Active Travel Act, made up of MSs from all four political parties, has published a Toolkit packed full of ideas for bringing about change.
Speaking at the launch of the Toolkit in Penyrheol Primary School, Swansea, the Chair of the Cross-Party Group, Huw Irranca-Davies MS for Ogmore, said:
“I am delighted to be launching this Toolkit. It is the culmination of a long process of discussion and engagement involving over 100 organisations and individuals - adults and children - from across Wales. It sets out all the reasons why we need to change and suggests ways of making walking and cycling to school easier and more attractive. The solutions range from ambitious new paths to something as simple as making sure children have somewhere to store wet weather gear. The Toolkit points to lots of good practice that is already happening in schools across Wales. But we need to do much more.
“The school run as we do it now causes immense problems; our guide for increasing walking, cycling or scooting to school is packed with solutions. We are not saying it is always easy. Not all schools will be able to do everything, but we hope most will be able to do something.”
More children walking, cycling or scooting to school instead travelling by car would help:
● Children’s Health - we need our children to be more physically active, Wales has the lowest levels of physical activity in the UK. Our sedentary lifestyles increase the likelihood of obesity and long-term illnesses such as diabetes type 2.
● Readiness to learn - evidence shows that children who walk or cycle to school are more attentive in class.
● Climate Change - cars are a major contributor to climate changing emissions. Transport accounts for 16% of Wales’ carbon emissions.
● Improve Air Quality - Emissions from motor vehicles, particularly nitrogen dioxide, is a serious threat to health. Wales has significant air quality problems, some of the worst outside London.
● Build stronger communities - children who walk or cycle develop stronger links with their local environment. Parking outside schools has become a source of conflict for many schools and their neighbours.
● Reduce Congestion - all motorists will have noticed the difference in rush hour driving during school holidays. The motorised school run puts considerable strain on our busy roads.
Penyrheol Primary School, recently won the 2021 Sustrans Big Pedal Award and has built active travel into the school’s culture. They have a lunchtime cycle club and have invested in their own fleet of bikes, so no child need be left out.
Headteacher Allison Williams said: “At Penyrheol Primary School we have a range of cycling and scootering opportunities that are available to all children from Nursery to Year 6 both during curriculum provision and at play and lunch time. Children are encouraged to use their own bikes and scooters during the day to make that active journey to school even more worthwhile using their own and school equipment. A number of fun events throughout the school year seeks to encourage more families to invest in taking the time and trouble to walk, scooter or cycle to school each day. Getting our children to be more active has been good for them and good for the school.”
Copies of the Toolkit can be downloaded via these Dropbox links:
English version: https://www.dropbox.com/s/wtf6j5qxrvwh89w/Active Travel to School Toolkit - Eng.pdf?dl=0
Welsh version: https://www.dropbox.com/s/aa2rbt6jo2e2kei/Active Travel to School Toolkit - Cym.pdf?dl=0