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More children in Cardiff and Vale are walking or cycling to school

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Nearly half of secondary school children in Cardiff have reported walking or cycling to school – the most of any local authority in Wales, a new report has found.

According to the School Health Research Network (SHRN), which in 2021 carried out a Wales-wide health and wellbeing survey involving more than 123,000 pupils in years 7 to 11, 48.6% of respondents in the Welsh capital said they chose an active form of travel to school.

That is significantly above the Welsh average of 35% and is an improvement on previous data for Cardiff recorded in 2019 (47.5%) and 2017 (43.3%). The survey also found that boys (51.1%) in Cardiff secondary schools were more likely to walk or cycle to school than girls (46%), following a similar trend across the country.

Cardiff Council’s Active Travel Schools team works with schools across Cardiff to support them in decreasing car journeys to school and increasing walking, cycling and even scooting. Its aim is for each school to have an Active Travel Officer who helps develop an active travel plan that fits best with them.

One of Cardiff’s School Active Travel success stories is the School Bike Fleet Scheme which has seen bike fleets delivered to more than 100 schools since 2020, including bike helmets and storage containers. The fleets help to introduce more children and young people to cycling through opportunities to use bikes during lessons and after-school clubs.

Schools in Cardiff have also been supported with National Standard Cycle Training for both for pupils and staff, and recently training was rolled out to staff to enable them to coach pupils themselves.

Cabinet Member for Transport and Strategic Planning, Cllr Dan De’Ath said: “The results of the survey are excellent and can be attributed to the commitment, investment and the value that we have placed on promoting active travel for everyone.

“The School Bike Fleet Scheme has greatly increased the number of children taking part in cycling by embedding it into school’s curriculum and with the support to cycle safely and confidently, provides a life skill.

“This change of behaviour promotes active travel and will have a positive impact on their lives and their futures. In addition, it is also helping to transform the city’s transport system, promote health and wellbeing and, importantly, respond to the climate emergency.

“Our aim is to increase training and the number of bike fleets to further support and deliver on our active travel vision for Cardiff.”

Meanwhile, the picture in the Vale of Glamorgan is also a positive one. The SHRN survey found that in 2021, 42.3% of pupils in years 7 to 11 reported active travel in their journey to school, the fourth highest in Wales. This was up on 39.4% in 2019 and 38.8% in 2017.

Some 43.8% of boys said they walked or cycled to school in the Vale, which was slightly above girls at 40.8%. The Vale of Glamorgan Council said it is working closely with parents and pupils to ensure safer pathways and cycle lanes to schools are made available in residential and rural arears.

With assistance from more than 250 pupils, parents, teachers and the National Cycle Network, the local authority said it has been able to make significant improvements to the infrastructure on school commutes. These include dropped kerbs, tactile paving, improvements around trees and footway widening.

The council has also introduced 20mph schemes in St Brides Major, Aberthin and Peterston-Super-Ely. Studies have also shown that such schemes help to encourage active travel and reduce congestion, carbon emissions and generally improve the local environment.

Active Travel schemes have also been delivered to improve opportunities for walking and cycling in several areas throughout the Vale of Glamorgan. The council’s Project Zero team is currently working closely with residents and schools to make positive changes to their daily travel commute.

One of the council’s Project Zero schemes involves working with Vale schools to encourage cycling. This includes the delivery of six balance bikes provided to every primary school in the Vale. Cycle shelters have been installed at four schools and bike repair stations have been installed in five sites.

In conjunction with National Walking month this May, the Vale of Glamorgan Council supported Walk To School Week from May 15-19. The week-long activity for primary schools has been built to make pupils experience first-hand the importance of walking to school.

Cllr Bronwen Brooks, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Sustainable Places, said: “The Project Zero team and the Vale of Glamorgan Council have worked very hard in improving the infrastructure for Active Travel routes and the new statistics are testament to their efforts.

“The Vale of Glamorgan Council are committed to reducing our carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and this is a step in the right direction. We will continue to work closely with school active travel plans to make routes safer and more accessible across the Vale.

“Welsh Government Active Travel funding has enabled the council to provide vital travel facilities and cycle schemes at key areas where they are most needed. This will benefit the physical and mental wellbeing of children, reduce traffic congestion outside schools and lower carbon emissions considerably.”

While both Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan saw increases in their active travel figures across all three SHRN reports, the same cannot be said for Wales as a whole where the figures remained more static (35% in 2021, 35% in 2019 and 33.8% in 2017).

The findings from the latest SHRN report, which is delivered by Cardiff University in partnership with Public Health Wales and Welsh Government, provides the first detailed overview of young people’s health and wellbeing since the pandemic began.

And, for the first time, a selection of the data can also be compared across local authority areas in Wales thanks to a SHRN partnership with analysts at Public Health Wales who have developed an online interactive dashboard to provide the survey results in more detail. This can be accessed here SHRN Data Dashboard – Public Health Wales (

Commenting on the encouraging findings for Cardiff and the Vale, Fiona Kinghorn, Executive Director of Public Health for Cardiff and Vale UHB, said: “It’s great to see the number of children choosing to walk or cycle to school increasing year on year in our area.

“The benefits to children’s physical and mental wellbeing from getting out and about and active on the way to school is well documented, and every time someone chooses to travel actively it helps to clean our air and cut down on carbon emissions. For younger children, walking or cycling will often mean their parents get more physical activity in their day too, benefitting the whole family.”

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