Scottish children cycling to school less: survey

Over 400,000 children questioned on school travel habits

The number of children cycling to school in Scotland has dropped, bucking the wider trend, a major survey carried out last year has found.

Results from the Hands-Up Scotland survey show a 0.5 percent drop in the number of youngsters travelling by bike and a 1.3 percent fall in those walking to school. In contrast one percent more kids are being dropped off and picked up by car.

An impressive 59 percent of all Scottish schoolchildren were interviewed for the survey – some 415,000 – in a joint effort by Sustrans and local authority School Travel Co-ordinators.

John Lauder, director of Sustrans Scotland, said: "The small decrease in the number of children travelling actively to school in Scotland is a shame. However, half of all journeys to school are still made on foot, by bike or by scooter.

"The forthcoming Cycling Action Plan will place the school journey as one of its aims and this must be matched with focused funding ... We welcome the recent spending increase of £10 million for sustainable transport and the important role it will play in encouraging more children to cycle and walk to school."

It wasn’t a negative picture right across the country, however –13 of the 31 local authorities taking part in the survey saw an increase in some modes of active travel. Some, like West Lothian, saw a small increase in levels of children cycling to school.

There was good news from East Renfrewshire too, which is to add mountain biking to its PE curriculum as part of a £400,000 initiative to get youngsters cycling  across seven Scottish councils. This is just one measure being trialled with funding from the Scottish Government’s three-year, £15 million Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) programme.

Criticism of both funding and leadership of cycling development in Scotland has come from several quarters. The Scottish Government’s own Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee concluded that "stronger, more effective and sustained leadership is required" and said the government needed to "match its stated ambition with a realistic level of funding". It recommended "ambitious increases in resources"

A National Travel Survey in 2008 showed about 2 percent of children cycling into school, 44 percent walking, 32 percent arriving by car and 21percent on buses.

In contrast, a 2008 Sustrans survey found that 8 percent of the 19,000 pupils surveyed in England and Wales cycled to school every day, compared to 4 percent six years ago before Sustrans introduced its Bike It program.

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