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Sustrans calls for action to make active travel an easier choice for parents

Sustrans has called for cross-Government action to make active travel an easier and attractive choice for more parents, as a YouGov poll carried by the charity has revealed that petrol and diesel vehicles remain the main mode of travel for a day out for over half (56%) of UK families.

This is despite 83% of parents thinking an individual’s choice of transport plays an important role in leading a sustainable lifestyle.

The poll surveyed 1,089 parents across the UK with children aged 18 and under about their views on sustainability and environmental problems. Over four-fifths of those surveyed said their awareness of environmental problems has increased in the last year. When asked what changes they have made to their lifestyle as a result of this, over three in five (61%) have reduced plastic usage, followed by recycling more (57%) and walking for shorter journeys (38%), whilst 9% started cycling for shorter journeys.

The survey also revealed:
– Walking tops the mode of transportation that is considered sustainable (81%), followed by cycling (72%) and train (35%)
– 70% said sustainable travel is not a key factor for determining the destination for a day out
– Almost one third (29%) stated a lack of public transport as a key barrier to travelling more sustainably, followed by the inconvenience of planning a journey around being environmentally friendly (27%) and limited budget (26%)
– Almost half (47%) attributed their increased awareness of environmental problems to televised programmes and a further 42% credited this to newspapers and magazines
– 92% of parents think it is important to teach their children about the impact their lifestyle can have on the environment.

New research by the University of Oxford demonstrates that walking or cycling can realistically substitute 41% of short car trips, saving nearly 5% of CO2 emissions from car travel.

Xavier Brice, Sustrans’ CEO, said: “Environmental problems have dominated media coverage in the last year so it’s great public awareness is increasing. Sadly, transport is the only sector where carbon emissions continue to rise. If we are to help everyone travel more sustainably and reduce harmful emissions, we need to make it easier for more people to replace trips that they currently make by car with walking and cycling. Travelling by bike or foot should be as easy as recycling. As the survey shows, people want to travel more sustainably but now they need the right infrastructure to act.

“Central Governments recognise the benefits of the National Cycle Network, which makes it possible for 4.4 million people to travel under their own power every year, for both work and leisure. We need to build on the success of the network and make walking and cycling realistic for more families. Dense, high-quality networks of walking and cycling paths that connect people to everyday destinations and offer an easy escape to the countryside require cross-Government action and large-scale investment.”

The survey has been released to launch Sustrans’ Everyday Adventures campaign to promote the National Cycle Network. Its 16,000-miles span the UK and nearly a third of the network is on traffic-free paths.

Pauline Castres, senior health policy advisor at Unicef, said: “Families choosing active travel is not only good for the environment but has health benefits and reduces children’s exposure to air pollution. All children have the right to live, learn and play in a clean and safe environment. Yet every day, one in three children in the UK is breathing in harmful levels of air pollution that could damage their health and impact their future.

“These survey results highlight a clear need for the UK Government to tackle this growing health crisis, by putting children’s health at the heart of its work on air pollution. Unicef UK is urging the Government to create a Healthy Air for Children Action Plan promoting urban spaces and active travel schemes and ensuring a child-friendly approach to building walkways and cycle lanes away from polluted roads to reduce children and young people’s exposure to toxic air.”

Julia Hailes MBE, sustainability writer and author of the acclaimed Green Consumer Guide, said: “I’m a huge fan of electric bikes. They really make cycling a realistic replacement to travelling by car – even in rural Dorset, where I live. And, it’s good exercise too. Creating cycling paths all over the country is an extremely effective route to cleaner air, better health and tackling climate change.”

Nat Taplin, director of Good Journey, an organisation which champions car-free leisure travel, said: “This survey has a clear message – that tackling the barriers of poor travel information and cost will make it easier for families to enjoy a car-free day out. Kids love the adventure of going by train, bus, bike and foot – free from the confines of the car seat. Having a car-free day out is also one of the best ways we can all help reduce CO2, air pollution, noise and traffic. If we can shift one in 100 day trips out of cars, it will save as much CO2 as taking 50,000 cars off the road.”

Mark Fitzsimons, a parent of two from Plymouth, said: “Whenever possible I try not to use my car and have been cycling with my son on the back of my bike since he was six months old. I’ve just bought a cargo bike as my other son is starting school in September and I really don’t want to start driving them both.

“They enjoy the freedom of sitting in the cargo bike as they’re not strapped in; everyone who sees them remarks on how happy they look. It’s also electric which means I have no trouble cycling up hills (there are plenty in Plymouth!) and we take the cargo bike pretty much everywhere – the shops, park and when we visit friends. It’s a shame driving is so integrated into our way of life as the benefits of cycling are so wide-ranging. You only have to look across to the Netherlands to see how much of a difference it can make to people’s health and also the environment.”

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