Dr Adrian Davis, Director of SHINE HIT, is among a group of public health experts, clinicians and transport specialists making a call on government to improve active travel infrastructure so children can lead active lives.
The group published an editorial in British Journal of Sports Medicine called ‘There is too much traffic for Alex to walk to school, so we drive: a call to action based on a 42-year trend’. The editorial describes the decline in walking to school that’s taken place over the last 42 years: children are frequently kept under close control and not allowed the independence to use active travel by themselves, because of traffic and an inhospitable environment for cycling and walking.
The authors argue that the car culture in the UK has been underpinned by car-centric transport planning. They say:
“This is the crux of our call—multi-pronged interventions aimed at reducing car use, particularly in urban areas.”
The average age children are allowed to travel to school on their own has gradually been creeping up since the 70s as have other journeys such as errands to shops. Their call to action is simple:
“Short car journeys to school need to be walking or cycling as the default position. Public transport use often includes walking (and sometimes cycling), and this should be promoted as an alternative to car use as well. We need Sustainable Travel Towns with road space re-allocation to walking and cycling. Transport and Public Health sectors need to collaborate, and national and local funding is required. We call on all decision-makers at the national, regional and municipal levels to take action to promote active travel.”
They have also written letters to the Transport Ministers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland calling for change.
Adrian Davis said:
“British society needs to break free of the stranglehold of the motor car. Lack of exercise and freedom because of the car’s supremacy is damaging our children, and it’s only getting worse. Policymakers should no longer shy away from measures to protect our children just because it places some restrictions on car use. Children’s health and wellbeing must be a top priority.”