A new report by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has highlighted a ‘dramatic decline’ in the levels of walking among children, in part due to concerns about road safety.
The report, ‘Children and Travel’, has uncovered ‘striking changes’ in children’s travel with the balance of power shifting from walking to travelling by car.
Authored by social research expert Kris Beuret OBE, the report also found that children are travelling much less independently than 40 years ago.
It points to the National Travel Survey, which shows that 62% of trips by under 16s in 2010 were accompanied by an adult, compared to 41% in 1971.
The changing pattern is attributed to a number of factors including: concerns about road safety; children spending more time in front of computer screens; and longer journeys to school because parents are choosing schools out of catchment area.
The report says more should be done to understand the views and priorities of children. It describes children as ‘largely ‘invisible as passengers in their own right’, and calls for ‘better transport design for children’, including enhanced WC facilities and family carriages on trains.
It also calls for better child travel data and evidence-based road safety programmes.
Kris Beuret OBE, commissioner with the ITC, said: “Only by arming parents, policy-makers and children with the knowledge about increasing levels of safety and public transport options, can we begin to tackle habits and attitudes at a young age that have a profound impact on behaviour in later life.
"This paper provides new insights on children’s travel needs and, importantly, examples of best practice amongst transport operators and public bodies. By following these recommendations we can encourage children out of cars, onto public transport and to walk and cycle more, in the process creating a healthier and more mobile population.”
The report also gives examples of good practice to encourage greater independent travel by children, and gives recommendations for making public transport more child-friendly in an effort to try to reverse some of these trends.