The school run accounts for around a quarter of a million car journeys every morning in London, new research shows.
A study by the Transport for London (TfL) Walking Action Plan, which aims to make London “the world’s most walkable city”, shows that a quarter of London’s weekday morning traffic is made up of parents dropping their children at school.
If all of the 254,000 vehicles on the school run each day were queued nose-to-tail, the line would stretch more than 1,000 km (621 miles).
According to TfL, this traffic has “an impact” on the city’s congestion, air quality and safety, as well as the efficiency of the capital’s road network.
However, the Walking Action Plan wants to remove these vehicles from the road by encouraging children to walk to school.
The group points out that eight in 10 children in London do not achieve the minimum recommended “physical activity level” of one hour per day. Four in 10 of London’s children are considered to be overweight or obese - the highest level of child obesity in England.
Walking would have environmental effects, the organisation claims, saving 57 kg of carbon a year if every young person walked one mile to school, rather than being driven the same distance.
TfL is trying to make it “more appealing” for youngsters to walk to school, with more than 1,500 schools, nurseries and colleges taking part in the Stars accreditation scheme, which encourages walking, cycling and even scooting to school.
Under the scheme, TfL has worked on new infrastructure that encourages walking and cycling. The Mayor’s Transport Strategy has laid out the aim of 80 percent of journeys within the capital to be made on foot, by bike or on public transport.
Meanwhile, the Walking Action Plan is aiming to double the number of schools that reach its “gold standard” under the Stars scheme by 2024. If that goal is achieved, 1,000 schools will have reached the level required.
Will Norman, London's walking and cycling commissioner, said: "Being physically active sets children up for success: active kids are healthier, happier and do better at school. Sadly, far too many children in London aren't as active as they should be.
“Walking, cycling and scooting to school are fun and easy ways to build more activity into the day. That's why we're determined to double the number of schools which champion active travel, enabling more London children to enjoy the benefits of leading active lives."
Ben Plowden, director of surface strategy and network development at TfL, said: "The start of a new school year is a great opportunity for both parents and children to enjoy the benefits of walking. Walking or cycling to school gives your child time to play, exercise and enjoy their local area.
“There are benefits for health, wellbeing and the environment, which is why we're looking to increase the proportion of trips to primary schools made by walking from 53 to 57 per cent by 2024. This target will help ensure London has the best rates of walking to school in the country."