Guest blog by Jayne Phenton at Living Streets
Although my school days were a long time ago I still vividly remember was the walk to school. Walking with my mum when I was small – chatting, looking out for things for the nature table on the way – and then, when I was older, with my school mates. Starting to walk to school on your own was a natural rite of passage.
Fast forward a good number of years and it seems that is no longer the case. Less than half of primary school children walk to school and even fewer older children. This week is Walk to School Week and today (20 May 2013), Living Streets has published Must Try Harder, a half-term school report on the current generation’s journey to school.
The statistics from a YouGov poll commissioned by Living Streets are alarming – one in five parents have never even considered their child walking to school, despite the majority of children not getting the recommended one hour of physical activity a day and one in five of them leaving primary school overweight or obese. So as the numbers of children walking to school slowly declines over generations – in my mother’s day 94% of children walked to school – how do we reverse the trend?
From the Walk Once a Week (WoW) scheme and outreach projects which Living Streets runs to increase walking rates and reduce the congestion and air pollution which plagues many school gates, we know that children enjoy walking to school. They enjoy spending time with their friends, it builds their confidence and they like the feeling of independence.
The common reason cited – by around a third of parents – is the speed of traffic. A similar number of children are also deterred from walking for the same reason. Traffic is certainly much denser than in our grans and grandad’s day. So one of the recommendations Living Streets is making to policy makers and local government is for 20 mph speed limits in all areas where we work, shop and go to school.
In the meantime, Living Streets would encourage all families to give walking a go this Walk to School Week. It’s a great opportunity to spend some quality time and build some physical activity into everyone’s day. When asked what he liked best about walking to school, one young chap said, “Mum doesn’t get stressed trying to park the car.”