Children ‘aware and concerned’ about poor air quality

08.20 | 24 April 2018 | | | 8 comments

Image: Sustrans

Nearly 40% of children think encouraging more people to cycle, scoot or walk to school is the best way to reduce levels of air pollution.

A YouGov poll, carried out for Sustrans, questioned more than 1,000 six to 15 year olds about their attitudes towards air pollution and the actions they think should be taken to help clean up the air.

38% said encouraging more children to actively travel to school would be most effective, while 16% felt that reducing the number of journeys taken by car would play the greatest role.

Looking at what would encourage them to walk, cycle or scoot to school, 34% of children cited having a shorter distance to travel – followed by fewer cars on the road (12%) and cycling routes routes separated from traffic (11%).

43% of children living in urban areas expressed concern about the levels of air pollution near their school; rising to 53% in London.

The survey was released yesterday (23 April) to mark the launch of Big Pedal 2018 (23 April – 4 May) which, according to Sustrans, is the UK’s largest competition for schools designed to encourage more young people to cycle, walk and scoot to school.

Sustrans says more than 500,000 children and young people will participate in Big Pedal 2018.

Xavier Brice, Sustrans’ CEO, said: “This survey demonstrates for the first time that children are aware and concerned about poor air quality.

“We wanted to hear their views on the matter, as they are some of the most susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution, which can lead to poor lung and brain development and asthma if exposed for long periods of time at a young age.

“More needs to be done to improve air quality near schools and help protect future generations. One of the best ways to do this is by reducing the number of journeys taken by car each day in favour of walking, cycling or scooting the school run.

“The UK Government needs to show leadership by helping local authorities fund and deliver better cycling and walking infrastructure so that every child is able to travel on foot or by bike to school in safety and with confidence. Failure to act now on high levels of air pollution has the potential to have a detrimental impact on children’s health.”



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    I agree with your second comment in principle but the unfortunate reality is that vast numbers of parents just don’t do it. If you know the magic formula to make that happen as a large scale change (to use public health terminology), I’m sure there will be job offers coming your way.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

    Charles, I know where you are coming from and wouldn’t disagree with you that when schools are closed a lot of parents take advantage and have a holiday with them. That’s what used to happen in Wakes Weeks up here in the north. Whole towns closed down when the mills were closed for machinery repair and servicing and that would be in June or July every year. As you say if its holiday time – July and August or Easter – then some businesses could lose some of their workforce but my observations are with the main roads and minor streets directly around a couple of schools which do not include businesses or any commercial or industrial site. Both may see a change in traffic volumes which could be duplicated by many more parents walking their kids to school. More walking, less traffic danger – simple.

    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

    M., we can’t assume that the drop in traffic during school holidays is only because kids are not being driven to school during those periods. A bigger reason seems to be (based on my observations of a large factory car park near here) that a significant proportion of the working population also take their work holiday during the school holidays, so are not on the roads during the rush hours either. If only everyone could work from home and live within a comfortable walking distance of their schools!

    Charles, England
    Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

    What I have seen around the schools near me is that many of the kids walk to school, the juniors generally with an adult and the older ones by themselves or with others. However quite a lot of mums and dads still drive their kids to or near to the school and that makes the roads around the schools extremely busy. This traffic increase is no more apparent during the recent Easter school holiday when traffic at pre school and post school times was totally nil and traffic was dramatically reduced to about 95% of the traffic norm. The streets and roads were completely calm and empty.

    It would be lovely if that state of affairs could be encouraged. Empty streets and main roads would make it a lot safer for all including the kids.

    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)


    I was looking for an example of an area which you believe has “safe routes to school”. You mentioned the safe routes to school where you live so I thought that such an example would be useful. Often what may appear to be a “safe route” from within a car is very different from the view of a 9 year old. So a location would be useful.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (1) | Disagree (8)

    Wales, Rod
    18 years of sustained Welsh Government funding specifically for Safe Routes improvements has made many safe routes and much improved infra-structure. I hope the investment rolls on another decade or two ‘cos we need to do a lot more as many local environments around schools are still far from ideal. Idyllic is your word not mine.

    “All” we need to do now on the good routes is to get the “reluctant” parents (& grandparents?) who can walk their children to school but don’t, to leave the car at home more often. That has been the hardest challenge and slowest aspect to change.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

    Where is this then Pat? It sounds idyllic for youngsters walking and cycling to school. Many safe routes (is that for each child?) and improved infra-structure. How about identifying the place so that we can all have a look on Google maps.

    Rod King, Warrington
    Agree (1) | Disagree (10)

    Great, the children have the right idea. However for schools near me, it is the cars and vans driven by other children’s parents dropping them at school and collecting at home time that are the main pollution culprits. And that is despite many safe routes and much improved infra-structure.

    PARENTAL choice NOT to walk or cycle even for short distances (for whatever reason) is by far the main problem.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (16) | Disagree (0)

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