‘Safety fears’ stopping kids walking or cycling to school

Fears over physical safety has been cited as the main barrier preventing parents from allowing their children from travelling actively to school.
Fears over physical safety has been cited as the main barrier preventing parents from allowing their children from travelling actively to school.

Fears over physical safety have been cited as the main barrier preventing parents from allowing their children to travel actively to school.

Research from the School Travel Survey for Parents, released by Sustrans Scotland and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, found that 42.4 per cent of parents felt that unsafe walking and cycling routes, a lack of or inadequate pavements, ineffective or lack of crossings, unsafe school entrances and dangerous driving were all major factors which prevented their children from walking, cycling or scootering to school.

Almost 30 per cent of parents also said a lack of cycle routes was a barrier for their child travelling actively to school each day.

The survey, of 1232 parents from across Scotland, also revealed that convenience for parents was a key factor in influencing whether or not their children travelled actively to school (32 per cent).

A lack of time (24.7 per cent) was the third highest barrier for parents when it came to active travel for their children.

Safety concerns were the common theme for parents in urban and rural areas along with areas of high and low deprivation in Scotland.

In rural and deprived areas these concerns manifested themselves in higher levels of driving and bus travel, along with more children being accompanied to school by an adult in areas of high deprivation.

Lynn Stocks, Sustrans Scotland acting head of behaviour change, said: “Increasing the number of pupils travelling actively to school is a simple way of providing children with the moderate intensity of exercise required every day.

“However it is clear that as long as parents feel that these journeys are not safe, they will be unwilling for their children to travel actively.

“Whilst funds such as Sustrans Scotland’s Safer Routes to School, which can be used to make routes to school and school entrances and pavements safer, help to make active journeys safer and easier for parents and children, it is clear that there is still more which needs to be done to improve safety around schools if we are to encourage healthy travel habits in children which can last a lifetime.”

Eileen Prior, executive director of SPTC, said: “SPTC actively encourages parent groups to work with schools to come up with approaches that help their families to tackle these issues: it is often not an easy fix but sometimes the most difficult things are the most rewarding.”