Sustrans wants more schools throughout the UK to implement Safe Routes to Schools projects to help combat the reported growing trend in obesity in children.
The call comes in response to a research carried out by the Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol and the Southampton University Hospitals Trust that found the first cases of type 2 diabetes developing in overweight children. Researcher Dr Julian Shield called for "a major initiative to combat the increasing obesity of our childhood population."
Sustrans has been working on supporting Safe Routes to Schools initiatives, to encourage children to walk and cycle to school rather than using 'parental taxis', since its
successful pilot schemes that started in 1995. Sustrans now provides Safe Routes to School support for 871 schools and is looking to expand the scheme even further.
Paul Osborne, Safe Routes to Schools manager, said: "Actively travelling to school, rather than sitting in a car, is a tremendous way to help children to lead a healthy way of life. Safe Routes to Schools schemes can help improve the environment by taking cars from the streets during the traditional school run, but its potential contribution to health is also an important consideration."
Enquiries to Sustrans from schools, parents, communities and local authorities have almost trebled since September 1999, and contacts with people interested in schemes has risen from 1200 to over 6000. Sustrans Safe Routes to Schools project is supported by a grant from the Communities Fund.
Sustrans has also recently launched its own Active Travel unit to specifically promote the health aspects of walking and cycling.
16 minutes cycling, or 20 minutes walking will use around 100 calories for someone weighing 62kg (DoH and DTLR - Walk In to Work Out 2002).