The Department for Transport’s latest figures about how primary school aged children travel to school show an increase in the number of those being driven at the expense of walking.

The number of children travelling by car has increased while the number of children walking has decreased; resulting in them taking the same share of 46 per cent of trips each. This is in vast contrast to the 74 per cent of children who used to walk to school and the 15 per cent who used to travel by car a generation ago (1975/76 figures).

Such a drastic decline impacts on children’s health, air quality, traffic congestion and road safety and comes at a time when three quarters of children* are not doing enough physical exercise.

Physical inactivity accounts for one in six deaths in the UK; the same number as smoking. It increases the risk of serious illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, and is placing a massive strain on the NHS. It has been estimated that the health benefits of increased walking and cycling could save the NHS £17billion over a twenty year period.**

Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, has expressed concern that unless investment is made now, the number of children walking will continue to decline.

The Government has set an ambition of getting 55 per cent of primary school children walking to school by 2025. This is an important recognition of the benefits of getting children walking to school. However, it has yet to earmark the funding that would be required to achieve this target. Living Streets is calling for funding for walking in November’s Spending Review.

Tompion Platt, Head of Policy and Research, Living Streets said:
“Walking to school keeps children fit and healthy, reduces air pollution and prevents dangerous congestion outside school gates. Yet, the number of children who walk to school is in serious decline. While the government’s target is very welcome, it must dedicate the funds in the upcoming Spending Review for walking schemes as without funding the target will slip away. If we don’t invest in getting children walking to school then we will continue to be an inactive and unhealthy population, placing an unsustainable pressure on the NHS and public purse."

We must invest in our children and help them reap the lifelong physical, social, mental and practical benefits that walking brings

This latest factsheet and more on specific topics from the National Travel Survey can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nts-factsheets