MORE children are improving their health and contributing towards better air quality by walking to school, according to latest figures from the city council.
The figures – released during Walk to School Week (w/c 5 Oct) and in the run-up to national Clean Air Day on 8 October – show that the number of children walking at least 10 minutes to school has gone up from 76% to 82%, with more families choosing to ‘park and stride’ – park further away from school and walk the last part of their journey.
The research also found that the number of car journeys made to 11 primary schools which are recording how children get to school has gone from 19% to 13% since pupils returned after lockdown.
In addition, there is more interest in cycling to school. Recent research from the charity Sustrans – which asked 1,400 local parents about getting to school – found that 48% of the parents would like their child to cycle to school, but in order for them to do that 26% said that they would like less traffic around schools and 25 % said that they would like safer cycle and scooter parking at school.
In response, Leicester City Council will be installing new cycle shelters and scooter pods at three city schools with known demand for such facilities – Sandfield Close Primary School, Mayflower Primary School and Oaklands School.
The new facilities – costing a total of £25,000 – will provide storage for 92 bicycles and scooters. They will all be installed during half term, from 19 October.
Natalie Sutton, school business manager at Sandfield Close Primary School, said: “We’re really pleased that we’ll be getting more secure parking space for cycles and scooters, as this will help to encourage even more of our pupils to choose active travel to get to school. There is a real need for these facilities and once they’re in place we know they will be well-used. Reducing the amount of cars at the school gates keeps children safer, cuts congestion and helps make our whole school community happier.
“Due to covid, more and more of our families are wanting to explore alternative modes of transport to and from school such as cycling or scooting to school. The additional secure parking the city council has kindly installed will enable us to offer them more options, which will hopefully help families to change their method of transport not just for now but long-term.”
Deputy city mayor for environment and transportation, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “These positive figures around walking and cycling to school reinforce that we are on the right track with our ambitions to encourage more active travel right across the city. For schoolchildren, the positive habits they learn now – about making shorter journeys by bike or foot – could stay with them for life.
“That’s why we’re happy to provide secure cycle and scooter parking for these schools, and hope to do so at more schools in the future. As part of our covid-19 transport plans, we have also helped schools by introducing street closures, widening pavements and extending no-waiting zones to manage traffic at the school gates more effectively.
“As Clean Air Day approaches, it reminds us all of the importance of doing our bit to improve air quality and help tackle the climate emergency.”
Popular puppet mascot Clean Air Clive will also be making a reappearance in time for Clean Air Day. Clive helps to educate children about air quality along with the city council’s air quality education officer, Danni Kennell. Together, with support from Sustrans, they will be making a film showing some of the changes the council has made outside schools to help keep cars away from the school gates.
Danielle said: “Clive was a big hit with school pupils and teachers alike, so I’m delighted to be bringing him back in film! I’m sure he will have a big impact and enjoy spreading messages about air quality to children in a fun way that they can easily understand.”
The film will then be used in assemblies to teach more children about air quality, and will be shared on social media.
To find out more about air quality, read the city council’s Air Quality Action Plan at: https://www.leicester.gov.uk/media/180653/air-quality-action-plan.pdf
Find out more about active transport, routes for cycling or walking to school, and tips and ideas for planning a healthy journey at www.choosehowyoumove.co.uk
Notes to editors: the Sustrans survey results can be found at https://www.choosehowyoumove.co.uk/sustrans-schools-project/ and this link sends you directly to the PDF: https://www.choosehowyoumove.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Leicester-Schools-Parents-Travel-Survey-Highlights.pdf
Picture shows parents and children at Avenue Primary School, taking part in their ‘no car day’ on 6 October, during which the school reached their target of 90% of children NOT arriving at the school gates in a car.