20 of York’s primary schools are set to take part in Walk to School Week 2021, which runs from 14 to 18 June. This year the event includes activities taking place on Clean Air Day on 17 June.
Locally, around 6,400 students from 20 different schools will get involved. The annual awareness-raising event aims to encourage children and their families to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school, rather than travelling by car. This year the event will have a particular focus on the impact of pollution on our health, encouraging families to make a sustainable change to improve local air quality near schools.
Coinciding with Walk to School Week this year is Clean Air Day on 17 June. Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK. The World Health Organisation and the Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today.
Poor air quality causes heart and lung diseases, is linked to low birth weight and children’s lung development and may even contribute to mental health issues. Clean Air day is being promoted through the council’s hard-hitting anti-idling campaign, Kick the Habit, which aims to to help tackle this problem in York.
Councillor Andy D’Agorne, the council’s Executive Member for Transport, said:
It’s fantastic to see the next generation forming the habit of sustainable and active travel on a regular basis. I want to wish the best of luck to the many local schools getting involved in Walk to School Week again this year.
“This event follows the successful Big Pedal Week in April with 23 schools in York taking part, clearly demonstrating an appetite amongst young people to walk, cycle or scoot to school.
“As a council, we are committed to supporting residents, whatever their age, to get around sustainably and events like this are a brilliant way to support children to make healthy lifestyle choices as they grow up. In addition to the health and wellbeing benefits for the children themselves, walking, cycling or scooting benefits everyone by reducing traffic congestion and emissions, and improving air quality.
"With Clean Air Day on 17 June we are also raising awareness of our ‘Kick The Habit’ anti-idling campaign, which encourages drivers to save money and lives by switching off their engine whilst stationary.
With reports of around 36,000 deaths a year nationally being linked to air pollution, and damaging impact particularly on the breathing of young people and the elderly, we can each take such a simple action to improve local air quality and save lives."
Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, said:
Walking or cycling to school is the easiest way to support your child in getting their 60 minutes of recommended daily exercise; it also helps them concentrate better on learning once they’ve got to school. This simple habit can improve their day in so many ways.
"The past year has taught us that our health it precious, so every step we can take to improve and protect it is important. Every car journey that is missed out or shortened can make a real difference to local air quality - this in turn improves our respiratory health, which we all know is really important in fighting colds and flu as well as Coronavirus.”
Residents of all ages can find out more about sustainable travel options on the iTravel website.