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Devon school children take action to reduce carbon emissions

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School communities across Devon completed over 23,000 active journeys during this year’s Sustrans Big Pedal, the UK’s largest walking, wheeling, cycling and scooting to school challenge.

During the competition, which took place between 19-30 April, Devon school children were physically active – walking, cycling, wheeling and scooting to school, and completing physical activities – for a total of nearly 240,000 minutes.

This follows data released by Sport England earlier this year that suggests there was a decline in the physical activity levels of children due to the pandemic, with almost a third of children in England engaging in less than 30 minutes of daily physical activity in the 2019 – 2020 academic year.

If the children taking active journeys during Sustrans Big Pedal had travelled to school by car instead, this could have created 14 tonnes of CO2 and 27kg of NOx. That’s enough to fill over 510,000 party balloons with harmful CO2 emissions.

This follows a YouGov survey commissioned by Sustrans and published in April which showed:

• Just under half (49%) of UK children worry about air pollution near their school.
• 40% of UK children believe the best way to bring down levels of air pollution near their schools is for more people to walk, cycle or scoot to school.

Speaking about the results of the Big Pedal competition, James Cleeton, Director for south of England at Sustrans, said: “It’s great to see how many journeys were made walking, wheeling, scooting and cycling in Devon during Big Pedal. This year, perhaps more than ever, it has been brilliant to see so many people enjoying their active journeys to school. Being able to make the Big Pedal happen again despite the pandemic has been truly great.

“The results of our recent YouGov survey show just how concerned children are about air pollution in their local area. As adults we should be doing more to make it easier for them, and us, to travel actively for everyday journeys like the school run. Sustrans is calling for national and local governments to prioritise high quality walking and cycling routes and to accelerate the roll out of school streets.”

Photo of Councillor Stuart Hughes
Councillor Stuart Hughes


Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for cycling, said: “We’re proud of the amazing effort put in by Devon school children again this year to make it another successful Big Pedal. Pupils are always engaged with this event, which encourages them to explore the health and environmental benefits of walking, cycling or scooting to school.”

Photo of Councillor Andrea Davis
Councillor Andrea Davis

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said: “Congratulations to all of the school children across the county who took part in this event and made a real difference to the environment outside their school gates. It highlights the positive steps people can take to reduce carbon emissions in Devon and how to make their journey to school cleaner, greener and healthier.”

For more information and a list of the overall winners visit the Sustrans Big Pedal website.