Independent travel by children is falling and often actively discouraged, leaving children 'neglected in transport provision', a new report argues.
Children and Travel, a paper from think tank the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) says that children are travelling much less independently than 40 years ago, and child walking has declined dramatically, replaced with travel by car.
The report found that 25% of children are unaccompanied when travelling to school, compared to 86% in 1971.
The overall message from the paper is that ‘children are neglected in transport policy and provision’.
Only 25% of children travelling to school are unaccompanied
It says there is a need to raise awareness of child travel needs among policy makers, especially on a joined-up policy basis.
The report also found a lack of confidence among parents about whether and when children should be allowed or encouraged to travel independently, with the result that many adopt a very restrictive approach.
It argues that ‘throughout the transport system there is little evidence of using technology or dynamic pricing data to target and provide for child travellers’, contrasting the relative lack of apps designed for children to understand travel options with the higher level of interest in making technology more user-friendly for older people.
Report author Kris Beuret OBE, an ITC Commissioner, said: ‘Only by arming parents, policy-makers and children with the knowledge about increasing levels of safety and public transport options, can we begin to tackle habits and attitudes at a young age that have a profound impact on behaviour in later life.
‘This paper provides new insights on children’s travel needs and, importantly, examples of best practice amongst transport operators and public bodies. By following these recommendations we can encourage children out of cars, onto public transport and to walk and cycle more, in the process creating a healthier and more mobile population.’
A key finding of the report is that while the per capita distance travelled by children is virtually the same today as in the mid-1990s, the balance has changed, with more travel being by car and less by walking.
The decline in children’s independent travel applies to trips by all modes. The report quotes the National Travel Survey as showing that 62% of trips by under 16s are accompanied by an adult, compared to 41% in 1971.