David Lincoln assesses the problems and proposes a local
The proportion of children cycling to school in London has fallen, even as cycling to work has risen dramatically. Unless we do something about this, the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling has warned, we risk a new generation growing up a stranger to cycling.
Children do want to cycle: a review by Lorenc et al (2008) found children’s perceptions of walking and cycling are substantially more positive than those of adults. So while only 1% of London children cycle to school, 33% would choose and be allowed to do so if conditions were safer. And a massive 80% of kids say they would rather cycle than be driven to school.
There are multiple benefits to this. Children need more exercise than adults do, to ensure their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The NHS recommends that 5-18 year olds have at least an hour’s physical activity every day. However, many children don’t reach that target, putting their health at risk.
The Vision for Cycling identified a key problem as being a vicious circle in which parents deem a car journey safer than cycling. The school run becomes a major contributor to congestion, making walking and cycling less pleasant, further encouraging parents to drive children to school.
Rates of obesity among children have been increasing steadily according to the National Child Measurement Programme, with the highest rates found in London. The causes are complex, but increasing opportunities for physical exercise within the normal routine of a child’s daily life with regular cycling to school, is one easy, cost effective measure.
There are longer-term benefits from enabling cycling to school: research by Lars Bo Andersen and colleagues in Denmark found that cycling to school improved children’s cardiovascular risk profiles, potentially lowering their risk of heart disease as adults.
The benefits even include academic achievement:participation in physical activity is positively related to academic performance in children (Singh et al 2012).
Targeted investment in safe routes to school can help to turn this around, starting to give our children back their health and independence, and allowing them to reach their academic potential.
The Mayor’s Cycling Vision states that he will encourage communities to design their own safe routes to school, funded as pilot Cycle to School Partnerships. When we met the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner (Andrew Gilligan) to discuss our proposals for Tufnell Park we received a positive response so the boroughs of Islington and Camden should now be looking at how to do this.
What we propose is a route passing Eleanor Palmer, Yerbury, Tufnell Park School ,Acland Burghley, Holloway School, and The Bridge Secondary School. This provides the quickest and most direct link between the schools, which also provides a safe approach and arrival. The route follows the existing London Cycle Network Route 14 from Crouch Hill/ Whittington Park to Camden (signed, but easily missed), and a desire line identified by Sustrans running east-west from Whittington Park through Tufnell Park and on to Hampstead Heath, crossing Junction Road at Station Road where there are existing calls for a new crossing. The routes aim to promote cycling not just to school but also to play, and link six parks and play areas including Dalmeny Park, Foxham Gardens, Whittington Park and Tufnell Park playing fields.
Camden cycling campaign research showed some congruence with students’ existing cycle routes to AclandBurghley, and the route could be easily extended to serve also the Parliament Hill schools forming part of La Swap 6th form consortium with Acland Burghley.
We have tested and promoted the route with our Tour de Tufnell Park events. We have also talked to many local people and received only positive responses. We’ve met with children at Tufnell Park School and Acland Burghley, and Islington and Camden cycling officers have engaged the children about cycling to school in general with hands-up surveys to assess demand. Islington Cyclists Action Group and Camden Cyclists have supported the campaign and they have great video of children using the route.
The funding has been identified but not yet allocated and we must demonstrate local support and commitment to using the route if built. We intend to hold a public meeting to discuss the project with the wider community of parents and families.
Now local councillors need to work with their officers, the schools and their governors, along with the community to demonstrate the political and community will to secure the funding for the children of Tufnell Park.
Members of the Tufnell Park Parents Support Group are invited to get involved and use contacts with schools, governors, local politicians and other groups to promote the campaign,or even extend it to reach other schools or facilities like GP surgeries. And if you can volunteer, we’d be glad to hear from you.
For more information see:
Twitter @tpc2s #space4cycling