Active Travel to school and Improving Air Quality

Background: Poor air quality can significantly impact upon health particularly in those most vulnerable; young children, older people and individuals with existing heart and lung problems. Additionally poor air quality has been linked to the development of cardio-vascular illnesses and cancers and is thought to have contributed to up to 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012 alone. Air pollution from transport, one of the biggest contributing factors to air quality, has been found to have the greatest impact in areas with high levels of deprivation and in England those living in the most deprived areas also experience the worst air quality.  Reducing exposure to air pollutants by reducing vehicle emissions will undoubtedly have substantial health benefits. Promoting the uptake of active travel and the use of cleaner vehicles have become priorities for local authorities who are looking to develop effective and sustainable strategies.

Aims: This project aims to influence behaviour change at an individual level and policy making at a regional level by raising awareness around air quality and health.


  1. A qualitative investigation was conducted with parents across the region to identify factors that impact upon parents’ choices regarding active travel, and the key barriers and facilitators to active transport for school journeys. Research findings have been summarised in a Local Authority report for project partners and have been accepted for publication to the Journal of Transport & Health.
  2. Living Streets, were commissioned in West Yorkshire to coordinate a programme of work to promote walking in a small number of schools across the region in 2015/16. A pilot evaluation of the Living Streets programme has been undertaken to examine the success and feasibility of the programme. Data collection for the evaluation is now complete and analysis is underway.
  3. APhD student, Sakarias Banks, was appointed in March 2016. The studentship is hosted by the School of Psychology, University of Leeds and BIHR, and is supervised by Rosie McEachan (BIHR), Ian Kellar at the School of Psychology, and Greg Marsden at the Institute for Transport Studies.

Plans: The studentship aims to identify barriers and facilitators to decision making and the implementation of policies that aim to improve air quality.   Approaches to effectively communicate the importance of improving air quality in the region and encouraging uptake of the West Yorkshire Low Emissions Strategy and other relevant policies by strategic decision makers will be developed.Publications

Ahern SM, Arnott B, Chatterton T, De Nazelle A, Kellar I, McEachan RRC: Understanding parents' school travel choices: A qualitative study using the Theoretical Domains Framework. Journal of Transport and Health 2017, in press.