Commonly cited barriers to active travel (and possible solutions)

According to a survey by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, almost half (48%) of children said that they would like more help in school so that they could walk, cycle or scoot to school. A study by Sustrans found that 51% of children driven to school would prefer to walk or cycle with friends. We know it makes sense from the exercise, alertness, obesity, congestion, air quality and global warming standpoints. So why don’t more children do it?

In 2018 Cardiff Cycle City conducted a survey of the parents at a North Cardiff school asking about their school journey. We surveyed journey distances, modes of school transport, the influences on transport mode, the barriers to more active travel, route concerns and desired improvements, and attitudes to cycling and road safety training and similar initiatives. These were the barriers to active travel cited:

So our Cardiff Cycle City survey chimed with numerous similar surveys that the biggest barrier is the perception that cycling is unsafe because of the dangers from traffic. Of course this creates a vicious cycle: Partly to avoid the danger of traffic, parents take their children to school in cars and create more traffic!

Interestingly however, safety concerns weren’t an overwhelming contributor to school run behaviours in our survey results. Onwards travel (e.g. to work or nursery) and “time” were often cited. Journey distance was also a common barrier, although we know from the same survey that more than 16% of respondents travelled less than 1 mile to school and more than 88% travelled less than 2 miles to school.

In reality the barriers to more people doing the school run actively are probably a mix of infrastructure (cycle lanes, lower speed limits, road crossings, parking restrictions etc), lifestyle and motivation.

Numerous international studies emphasise the importance of an effective combination of both cultural and infrastructure measures.

To break the vicious cycle there’s a whole range of things we can do.

Explore our Cardiff Cycle City website schools content for ideas, approaches, contacts, resources, services and events that might help get more children, parents, guardians and teachers from your school on their bikes!