Kids want to get active: thousands march for safer streets

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Brake, the road safety charity

Over 100,000 children from over 600 schools across the UK are taking to the streets today as part of the Giant Walking Bus, an initiative coordinated by Brake, the road safety charity, and The event aims to give children a voice, calling on drivers and government to make their streets safer for walking and cycling, to enable them to live healthy, active lifestyles.

In a survey by Brake and of almost 5,000 children taking part in the event, they expressed their wish to get out and about more on foot and bike, and for safer streets to allow them to do so. The survey found:

  • Three quarters (76%) of students would like to walk and cycle more, to get to school, go to the park, or to see friends.
  • More than half (56%) worry they might be run over by traffic when walking or cycling on roads.
  • Four in five (81%) think drivers should go slower around their school or home. (full results below)

With childhood obesity on the rise – three in 10 (28%) children in England aged two to 15 are overweight or obese [1] – it is more critical than ever that children can live more active lifestyles. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to build active travel into their everyday routine – and as Brake and's survey shows, the kids themselves want to walk and reclaim the streets.

However, with 33 children killed and 1,836 seriously injured while walking or cycling in Great Britain in 2012 alone (latest figures) [2], many parents are understandably fearful to let their children travel to school, the park or friends' houses this way [3]. Almost half (44%) of primary school children are now driven to school [4], impacting on children's health and contributing to congestion and traffic danger.

Brake is calling on drivers and government to take action to make streets safer for kids and help them enjoy a healthy, active, happy childhood, by backing Brake's GO 20 campaign. For drivers, this means slowing down to 20mph or less wherever there may be people on foot or bike, and always keeping a look out for vulnerable road users. For government, this means implementing widespread 20mph speed limits in towns, cities and villages – one of the most effective measures identified by the World Health Organisation to reduce pedestrian casualties [5]. Read more about the GO 20 campaign below.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "The thousands of kids out on the streets today should send a clear message to everyone: kids want to be able to get out and walk and cycle, and by not making our streets safe, we are denying them the fun, active childhoods they deserve. This has serious implications for their long-term health and wellbeing, the burden on our NHS, the environment, and our society as a whole. If we are going to create an environment fit for our children we need to put them – not motor vehicles – first. We are appealing to drivers to slow down to 20mph or less around homes, schools and shops, to local authorities to continue rolling out 20mph limits, and to national government to make 20mph the national urban default. We need to make sure our kids and people of all ages – not just the lucky few – can walk and cycle without being endangered."

Richard Evans, campaign spokesperson for road safety at said: "Children want to be active and it's our responsibility as road users to ensure they feel safe. Being able to cycle or walk to and from school should be a childhood right, not a luxury. We want today's event to work as a wakeup call to drivers - children want their roads to be safe and it's our privilege, at webuyanycar,com, to help the voices of over 100,000 children be heard."

About Giant Walking Bus
The Giant Walking Bus is an annual national event coordinated by Brake, through which primary school children learn about road safety, traffic pollution, and transport choices. Participating schools get their pupils to march as part of a supervised group, holding hands on safe pavements or around the school's grounds. The objective is to give children a voice, helping them tell drivers to slow down and look out for people on foot and bike. Children can be sponsored to take part, helping fund Brake's road safety campaigns and vital support services for families bereaved and injured by road crashes.

About the GO 20 campaign
GO 20 is a coalition campaign to make 20mph the norm where people live, work, and play, and in our city, town and village centres. It calls on government to make 20mph the national urban default, encourages local authorities to implement their own 20mph schemes, and urges drivers to make their own choice to slow down to 20mph or less wherever there may be people on foot or bike. 20mph limits lead to:

  • Fewer casualties: drivers have more time to react in an emergency and avoid hitting someone: stopping distances at 20mph are about half those at 30mph [6]. Children benefit especially, since they struggle to judge the speed of vehicles over 20mph [7]. Areas where 20mph limits have replaced 30mph limits have seen significant reductions in casualties [8] [9], such as 22% in Portsmouth [10], and Camden where crashes dropped by 54% in trial areas [11].
  • Healthy, active lifestyles: less fast traffic makes people feel safer, which encourages more walking and cycling. Where widespread 20mph limits have been introduced, walking and cycling has increased, including by 20% in Bristol [12]. This means better health and prevention of illnesses like heart disease and diabetes [13], and less strain on the NHS.
  • Sociable communities: 20mph limits help turn our streets from soulless thoroughfares for traffic to enjoyable social spaces where people live. Lower traffic speeds (and traffic volumes) have been shown to improve the 'sociability' of streets: people get out more and are more likely to know their neighbours [14] [15].
  • Less pollution: more people walking and cycling means less traffic and more carbon-free journeys. 20mph limits also reduce pollution by causing vehicles to travel at a more consistent speed, with less of the speeding up and slowing down that produces most vehicle emissions [16]. For the same reason, journey times are barely affected; in fact, they may be smoother and use less petrol.
  • Lower costs: every road death in the UK is estimated to cost £1.7 million [17]. Fewer casualties mean less strain on the NHS and emergency services as well as preventing families suffering emotional and financial devastation. Add the public health benefits of more walking and cycling, and introducing 20mph limits ultimately pays for itself many times over [18].

Advice for parents
Deciding at what age to let children walk or cycle to school unsupervised is a difficult decision for most parents, who are faced with weighing up the benefits of their child living an active lifestyle with the threat of their child being hurt by traffic. Research shows that many are put off letting their child get out and about by traffic danger [19]. Making roads safer helps more parents choose to let children walk or cycle.

Parents who are worried that their child's route to school isn't safe enough have a number of options. If it's possible, they could walk with their child to school, helping to keep them safe, or set up a walking bus with the help of other parents. They could also work with the school to set up a local campaign for safer roads, calling for measures such as 20mph limits, crossings, pavements and paths. They can also check if their child's school runs practical pedestrian and cyclist training, and encourage them to contact the local authority to provide this if they don't.

Read more advice for parents.

Full results
These results come from a 'hands up' survey of 4,787 primary school children (aged 7-11) from participating schools across the UK, carried out between January and May 2014.

Q1: Would you like to walk and cycle more, such as to get to school, go to the park, or to see friends?

  • 76% said yes
  • 24% said no

Q1: When walking or cycling on roads, do you ever worry you might be run over by traffic?

  • 56% said yes
  • 44% said no

Q1: Do you think drivers should go slower around your school or home?

  • 81% said yes
  • 19% said no

Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaigns, community education, a Fleet Safety Forum, practitioner services, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.
As the UK's favourite car buying service, takes its responsibility to road safety very seriously. Committed to protecting the lives of the UK's most vulnerable road users, it is a proud sponsor of Brake, the road safety charity.

The last twelve months has seen launch with Brake's support a number of road safety initiatives designed to protect our youngest road users. They include: 'See Me Stay Safe', a hi-vis vest giveaway for children aged 4-7; the GO 20 competition for primary schools, challenging students to design a banner encouraging drivers to slow down to save lives;, a site which to donate money in exchange for old toy Little Tikes delivered to selected branches; and the 2014 Giant Walking Bus engaging over 100,000 primary school students across the UK.

End notes
[1] Health Survey for England – 2012, Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2013
[2] Reported road casualties Great Britain 2012, Department for Transport, 2013
[3] Is it safe to let our children walk to school? Living Streets, 2010
[4] National Travel Survey: 2012, Department for Transport, 2013
[5] Pedestrian Safety, World Health Organisation, 2013
[6] The Highway Code, Driving Standards Agency, 2007
[7] Reduced sensitivity to visual looming inflates the risk posed by speeding vehicles when children try to cross the road, University of London, 2011
[8] 20mph speed reduction initiative, Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2001
[9] 20mph Speed Limit Pilots Evaluation Report, Warrington Borough Council, 2010
[10] Interim Evaluation of the Implementation of 20 mph Speed Limits in Portsmouth, Department for Transport, 2010
[11] Borough-wide 20mph speed limit, Camden Council, 2013,
[12] Where widespread 20mph limits have been introduced levels of walking and cycling increased by 20%. Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012
[13] At least five a week – evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health – a report from the Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, 2004
[14] The contribution of good public spaces to social integration in urban neighbourhoods, Daniel Sauter & Marco Hüttenmoser, Swiss National Science Foundation, 2006
[15] Driven to excess, Joshua Hart, University of the West of England, 2008
[16] Environmental effects of 30 km/h in urban areas – with regard to exhaust emissions and noise, The Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, 1999
[17] Reported road casualties Great Britain 2012, Department for Transport, 2013
[18] In Bristol, 20mph resulted in a massive return on investment because of the cost savings to the health service through increased physical activity. They used the World Health Organisation's Health Economic Assessment Tool to estimate the changes in cost to health as a result of 20mph. They found for every £1 spent they saw a return of £24.72 through increased walking and £7.47 through increased cycling. Citywide Rollout of 20mph speed limits, Bristol City Council Cabinet, 2012
[19] Survey of 1,000 parents of children under 16 conducted by Redshift research on behalf of Brake and Churchill Car Insurance, March 2012

Tags: school children Giant Walk