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Elections 2024

We want at least 60% of children to be able to walk to school – join our campaign! 

We believe that every child has the right to be active, feel safe and breathe clean air.  

That’s why, in the run up to 2024 elections we are calling for a simple, achievable target: We want 60% of primary school children walking to school in England by 2029. We want decision makers at all levels – UK, regional, local – to commit to this target as a minimum.  

When we design streets for children, we create places that work better for everyone. Increased walking rates will reduce road deaths and congestion, improve health and air quality, and boost our economy.   

Our four key recommendations will help reach the 60% walk to school target and help others to walk more, too. While this is a national target, local authorities and mayoral authorities have a crucial role to play in the mission to get more children walking.  

three young asian girls in school uniform, walk through a playground

Our four key recommendations to allow more families to walk to school: 

Targets

Road Safety

Devolution

Spending

The government should increase the walk to school target to 60% and maintain the target for 365 stages walked per person per year, as outlined in Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy 2 (CWIS2). 

The government should provide safe routes for children to walk to school, committing to a Vision Zero approach. Slower speeds, improved crossings and an end to pavement parking will make streets safer for all. Investment in both infrastructure and behaviour change initiatives is required to make change happen. 

National government should empower local authorities to make decisions that create safer, inclusive streets. They should ensure local authorities are properly resourced, have the right skills, and have the right powers to respond to local concerns such as speed, pavement parking and high traffic levels.

The UK government should allocate 10% of domestic transport expenditure to active travel by the end of the next Parliament.

FAQs

In 2022, the National Travel Survey travel diary recorded 53% of primary school children (aged 5 to 10) and 41% of secondary school students (aged 11 to 16) walking to school in England (table NTS0613). Confusingly, children’s usual mode of travel to school as reported by a person aged 16 or over differs – here the results are less optimistic, that 49% of primary children walk to school, dropping to 37% of trips walked to secondary school (table NTS0615). 

In Wales the figure is slightly lower - with 40% of younger children getting to school by walking with an adult and 32% of older children walking independently or with friends.

In Scotland, Government figures are slightly older indicating that in 2019 59% of primary school aged children walked to school, falling to 42% after transitioning to secondary school.

In England, Government’s aim was to increase the percentage of children aged 5 to 10 who walk to school from 49% in 2014 to 55% by 2025. Children’s usual mode of travel to school as reported to the NTS by their parents or carers plateaued at 49% in 2021 and 2022, meaning that we are still some way off achieving the 55% target.

The Wales Transport Strategy set a target of 45% of journeys to be made by public transport, walking and cycling by 2040. Although the Scottish Government does not set an active travel target, it aims to make sure that public transport and active travel options are the preferred choice for people making short journeys. Progress on active travel is used as a performance measure for broader objectives such as reducing inequalities and improving health and wellbeing.

The UK government spent £3.3 billion in England between 2016 and 2021, about £2.3 billion went on infrastructure and £1 billion on other activities such as behaviour change initiatives – such as Living Streets’ WOW programme and Bikeability. 

In 2021, the Welsh government announced £75 million for active travel as part of a wider £210 million for the transport strategy. Scotland’s National Transport Delivery Plan committed over £500 million over five years for large scale, transformational active travel infrastructure projects, access to bikes and behaviour change schemes. 

Not all trips to school can be walked or wheeled. Distance from school is a key factor – 81% of trips under a mile are walked. Living Streets modelled different scenarios using 2021 National Travel Survey data (based on table NTS0614) to investigate how distance makes a difference. We found that if 90% of trips under 1 mile and 30% of trips between 1 to 2 miles are walked, then 59% of journeys to school could be walked. This suggests that the 60% is very ambitious.

However, expanding Living Streets’ Walk to School Outreach (WOW) programme to all primary schools in England could achieve the 60% target in the next parliament. WOW Travel Tracker data from 2017 to 2022 shows that, each year, new schools increase the mode share of walking and wheeling (including scooting and skating) by between 5 and 12 percentage points, on average 8 percentage points, compared to their baseline. Schools which remain in the programme for multiple years see sustained increases above this level. If behaviour change programmes like WOW are combined with continued investment in infrastructure, such as school streets, then the target could be met more quickly.

In March, we launched an online action asking our supporters to write to their local paper to ask decision makers to make the walk to school safer and easier for all, of which hundreds of you have already answered our call. 

Moving into April, the Policy & Comms team is ramping up influencing work ahead of local and regional elections in England on 2 May. We've been promoting Living Streets agenda across a number of Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) hustings events, including Greater Manchester and the new East Midlands Combined Authorities.

We're also supporting our Local Groups in their work to influence politicians across England.