70% of NI kids don't walk or ride bike to school, says study
Nearly 70% of primary school pupils do not walk or cycle to school in Northern Ireland, new research has revealed.
The first report of its kind by the Department for Regional Development showed that 69% of primary pupils and 78% of secondary pupils do not walk or ride a bike to school.
A further breakdown revealed that just 1% of primary and less than 0.5% of post-primary rides a bike to school.
But, shockingly, 43% of primary pupils who lived less than a mile from school were driven by car.
The 2013/14 Continuous Household Survey (CHS) survey showed that three-fifths of primary pupils (59%) were travelling by car.
The research has led to calls from sustainable travel charity Sustrans for a better infrastructure to improve the cycling and walking environment.
The survey also showed that among primary school pupils, one in 20 (5%) did not spend any time taking part in exercise and other forms of activity.
Fewer than half of children and young people in Northern Ireland achieve the amount of daily exercise recommended by the Public Health Agency (PHA).
The authority says that they should take moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 60 minutes every day.
The latest figures come as concerns grow over an obesity epidemic among children in Northern Ireland. And 25% of children aged 2-10 were classed as overweight and obese - a figure that has not changed since 2005-6.
A spokeswoman for Sustrans, which spearheads the Active School Travel Programme - funded by the DRD and PHA - said children and families want an alternative to the car but safer routes must be created.
"The vast majority of children we surveyed for the programme - 84% - want to travel actively to school and over half of those want to travel by bike," the spokeswoman said.
"Safer routes to schools with investment in infrastructure and provision of on-road cycle training would encourage more children and reassure their parents to let them walk or cycle to school."
"This would bring substantial benefits to children's health and cut congestion arising from the school run and have an impact on these travel statistics."
The figures are based on a survey of the parents of 1,255 children across Northern Ireland.
This is the first time that the DRD has produced a report looking specifically at how children travel to and from school.
The survey showed 43% of primary school pupils who lived less than a mile from school were driven by car. One per cent of primary and less than 0.5% of post-primary pupils ride a bike to school; 69% of primary pupils and 78% of secondary pupils do not walk or cycle to school. Fewer than half of children here achieve the amount of daily exercise recommended by the PHA.