Active Travel for Children

Exercise is a great start to the day, be it walking, cycling or scooting. Arriving at school having burnt calories means children are more alert and attentive at school as well as more likely to sleep better due to getting more exercise. The majority of schools have an amount of vehicles dropping children off currently. It’s an easy routine to get into. However we should be working against it, for the well-being of children, as well as to reduce pollution and amount of vehicles on the road … and it will save parents money!

Encouragement for children to be active in getting to school is provided by schools participating in schemes such as

The hope with these schemes is that it creates a habit to avoid getting a ride in a metal box to school. Not one Whitby and district school currently participates in these events! In the same way no Whitby schools include cycling in the School Travel Plan due to the risk assessment (though we understand that Glaisdale do). In fact, for North Yorkshire as a whole the number of schools participating in the Sustrans event per year are 2022 (4), 2023 (12), 2024 (8) – very low levels, with no sign of improvement.

Bikeability training is currently being offered to all year 5 and 6 pupils via primary schools (level 1 and 2 accreditation respectively). Training of this nature provides a level of confidence in riding a bike at an early age and is essential for all children. There is a level 3 Bikeability as an option at secondary schools (how to ride in more complex road situations) but it is for parents to fund, and we are not aware of it being utilised in this district.

Bikeability training is great, however ideally there should be balance skill training at an earlier age, and it should be followed up by having places to use these skills. The lack of cycle infrastructure close to the residential areas where these children live, as well as the lack of a default 20mph speed limit on (particularly residential) roads, typically means that they have little opportunity to build their confidence further by using what they have learned. This reduces the value of the training.

It is a priority for us to help address this lack of activity of the young, by facilitating more active travel infrastructure, as well as encouraging schools to allow cycle to school.

Primary School

As said, during primary school years 5 and 6 children will be offered Bikeability Level 1 and 2 training. This is very limited, and we feel that additional benefits can be obtained by introducing active travel at an earlier age.

The benefits of active travel to children will include

  • improved focus, self-discipline and brain development,
  • improved cognitive development and decision-making skills leads to increased self esteem,
  • developing lifelong healthy habits early in life.

In addition, cycling/scooting develops key skills for early years children, such as

  • increased balance and coordination skills,
  • wrist stability which transfers into other school activities,
  • body/spatial awareness confidence,
  • bi-lateral coordination develops and transfers into PE/dance/art activities.

In terms of current activity levels, we hope to survey each primary school in the coming year with a view to offering to facilitate increased active travel. The schools are currently as follows

  • Airy Hill School : of 17 (year 5) pupils surveyed, 58% (10) walk to school, 42% (7) go by car (average distance 1 mile), and 0% wheel (cycle/scoot).

To put those numbers into context, the national average is 49% walk to school.

Secondary School

Cycle to school is not part of the current travel plan for the Whitby Secondary Partnership. This is largely down to the infrastructure around the school sites not being considered safe for this to take place. Indeed, even walking to school, whilst part of the travel plan, has significant areas of concern due to the proximity of busy roads. The current amalgamation of Eskdale and Caedmon schools resulted in 3 requests being made to North Yorkshire Council (NYC) Highways department

  • Provide a lay-by on Mayfield Road for coaches to pull in, rather than block the carriageway. NYC said that they have no plan to provide this.
  • Provide reduced speed limits in front of both sites, preferably 20mph to fit in with approved motions in NYC scrutiny committees. NYC said that they do not intend to change the speed limits, and if a speed limit change was to happen over New Bridge it would only be after introducing the traffic lights on Spital Bridge junction.
  • Improve the crossing facilities at the Mayfield Road. NYC said that the crossing is working normally.

Consequently there are significant changes that need making to reach our goal of having cycle to school as a viable option, and until that, use of vehicles will continue.

Our understanding is that currently Whitby Secondary Partnership does not offer Bikeability level 3 to its pupils.

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