The results of the annual National Travel Survey released today (27 July) show an increase in the number of children in England walking to school.

53% of children aged 5-10 walk to school, up from 48% the previous year.


Children walking to school

In the week that the Government released its Air quality plan with a commitment to ban new diesel and petrol vehicles from 2040, Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking says action is needed now to enable more people to take to their feet. 

Air pollution has been described as “the tobacco of the 21st century” and is responsible for 40,000 premature deaths every year.  Motorised traffic is the biggest source of air pollution with 23 per cent of peak-time traffic being made up of those on the school run. 

The charity wants more families to be supported to walk to school. In April the Government set its first ever target to increase the number of primary school children walking to school to 55 per cent by 2025. 

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive, Living Streets said: 

“It’s great to see more children are walking to school, after many years of decline - it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce air pollution. Air pollution is harmful to everyone but for children, the risk to their health is even higher as their exposure is much greater and they absorb and retain pollutants in the body for longer. 

“WOW - Living Streets’ year-round walk to school challenge sees walking rates increase by an average of 23 per cent in primary schools accompanied by a fall in car use of 30 per cent. It’s vital that these interventions continue to be supported so we can encourage even more families to walk to school.”

The National Travel Survey also reported that while the average person walks 332 journeys a year, almost once a day, only a fifth of these journeys is over a mile. Adults are recommended to be active for 150 minutes per week to stay healthy but the vast majority don’t achieve that with one in four adults being inactive and levels of obesity more than triple what they were in the 90s.

Joe Irvin continues:

“Fitting more exercise into our day can be tough, especially for those with busy lives. Walking our short, everyday journeys is an easy way for people to fit more activity into our days and stave off chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, depression and heart disease. It really is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve so many aspects of our health.

“We need to be working at a local level to create safe walking routes to encourage even more people out of their cars and create healthier and happier people and places.”

More about WOW

Find out more about our groundbreaking year-round walk to school challenge.