One of Leeds’ top public health experts has claimed schools need to do more to encourage parents not to bring their children to school by car.
Dr John Beal, a regional public health consultant, told a meeting of councillors and health chiefs that using cars to travel regularly was a “learned behaviour” that can start with children being driven to school by parents and carers.
The comments came during a discussion on “active travel” – a long term scheme by Leeds City Council to encourage people to walk and cycle to help combat carbon emissions and improve people’s health.
Dr Beal told a meeting of Leeds City Council’s health and wellbeing board:
“I think that in many cases, it’s become the social norm to just jump in your car and drive wherever you’re going – even if it’s a really short journey.
“Social norms are learned early in life. Anyone who lives near a school will see the very high proportion of kids who are being driven to school, regardless of how far away they live.
“I think work needs to be done to encourage schools to encourage parents not to drive their children to school if there is any possibility of them walking or coming by bicycle.”
His comments come after ambitious plans were announced last year to spend millions on the district’s cycle and walking networks.
Speaking at a meeting back in May, Leeds’s councillor in charge of transport, Lisa Mulherin, said cycling could be the way forward for many.
“Times have changed,” she said. “When I was growing up, very few people had a car, and if they did, they only had one per household. Now we live in a society where people some people have two cars.
“But 30 percent of the population doesn’t have access to a car, and those needs have not been met.
Coun Mulherin added segregated cycle lanes could be the future for some of the city’s roads.
She said: “People will have noticed the work we have been doing on the top of the Headrow, and Park Row, with the cycle lanes for the longer term to have improved public transport provision in the city centre. The real connection will improve life for all of us.
“We want to expand segregated cycle provision. I have picked up concerns from people who don’t like people cycling on the pavement – if you had a segregated lane, they wouldn’t be doing that.
“We know active travel is beneficial for people’s mental health and physical health,” she said. “We have been working to promote people being physically active and getting outdoors.”