The school holidays are notable for many things, not least of which is the reduction in traffic on Grantham’s roads. With people jetting off on holiday we see less people travelling to and from work, however, the real impact is less car journeys taking children to and from school. The journey to and from school is made by thousands of children across Lincolnshire each day and it’s hard to ignore the volumes of traffic we see as a result.
The recent publication of the School Travel Survey for Parents, released by Sustrans (a national transport charity that promotes sustainable travel), highlighted many of the issues faced by families when travelling to school by foot or bike (termed ‘actively’). Over half of parents responded that their children already travel actively to and from school. 51.2 per cent of children, according to their parents, travelled to school by walking, cycling or scootering and 54.5 per cent travel home from school by these means. While the reasons are mixed, many parents report that they prefer non-car transport for the school run. Parents stated that their children enjoyed it; it’s good for their children’s health; and it provides children with a chance to socialise with their friends and parents; they chose active modes due to the larger positive impact on the environment and society. Interestingly many parents felt that allowing their child to travel actively to school increased the child’s confidence and independence.
With 22 per cent of primary children at risk of being overweight or obese, it’s more important than ever to enable communities to travel actively for more of their everyday journeys to encourage healthier lifestyles. Moreover, the benefits to the wider community are huge, more people walking means fewer cars, particularly at peak times, which in turn reduces congestion and air pollution.
I know that it is not realistic for everyone to walk and cycle the whole way to school. However, many schools have adopted park and stride facilities to help change the environment at the school gate and to enable parents to make the last leg of their journey an active one. The idea is simple: parents, who have to drive, park a short distance from the school in a designated park and stride site, perhaps in the local village hall or pub car park, walk, scooting or cycle the last leg of the journey.
Here in Grantham, schools have access to local Sustrans support through the Poacher Line – our local Community Rail Partnership. Sustrans Officer Jon Moody has already done some great work in the town with St Mary’s Catholic Primary School. Jon’s project looks at sustainable travel as a whole linking everything from the bike to the railway through the curriculum, educating and inspiring children and their families. I would encourage schools to get in touch with Sustrans if you feel that this may help your school too.