Rates of walking to school have been in decline for decades – nationwide, 1 in 4 cars on the road during the morning peak are on the school run. Air pollution is one of our biggest public health challenges and it particularly negatively impacts children as pollution can stunt the growth of their lungs. This is why at Zero Carbon Harrogate we have been working with schools, families, the council and the Harrogate Bus Company to encourage healthier transport habits.
Walking, cycling or scooting instead of driving has many advantages for families. The most obvious is perhaps the physical benefit of light exercise first thing in the morning. It’s great for busy parents who struggle to fit exercise into their daily routine; walking one mile can burn up 100 calories of energy. Walking two miles (3.2km) a day, three times a week, can help reduce weight by one pound (0.5kg) every three weeks.
With more children experiencing mental health difficulties than ever before, we should also think about the positive impact on our emotional wellbeing. Even short-term exposure to natural areas through brief walks have been found to have positive effects on mood, reducing feelings of anger and anxiety.
And of course, there are the financial benefits - driving the average school run for a year costs over £400.
For my family, the daily walk to and from school is our opportunity to catch up with neighbours and school friends, discuss the events of the day and pop into the shops. During the summer holiday when my daughter was at an activity camp a bit further away from school, we chose to cycle instead of drive. We avoided the queue of cars at the gate, and she arrived with a healthy glow ready to start each day.
If you are thinking about switching to two wheels instead of four but are a little daunted by teaching your child how to ride safely, there are lots of resources online. In the Harrogate area, Dave Burns runs cycling proficiency tuition (www.iwanttoridemybike.co.uk) to help cyclists young and old to gain more confidence on the road.
Our Walk to School Day events run every half-term, although many schools are already promoting good transport habits on a daily basis. On Walk to School Days, local primary schools are asked to promote more climate friendly ways for students to get to school. There have been 13 district wide events, with around 60 schools now regularly taking part. Your school can sign up and receive a free event pack containing everything they need by emailing email@example.com
Please think about leaving your car at home, even just for one journey per week, if you can. Every mile counts in the fight against climate change.