Sustrans is calling on local authorities across the UK to implement low traffic neighbourhoods, a holistic approach that looks at removing through traffic from residential areas, along with school streets.
This comes as new figures show that 59% of parents in the UK do not enjoy their daily journey to school, with Yorkshire and the Humber region topping the list as those most unhappy with the school run, at 67%.
A YouGov survey, commissioned by Sustrans, surveyed 1,013 parents of children under 16 about their views on the school run between 3rd-8th September, following various school closures across the UK due to COVID-19.
Out of those who admitted to disliking the school run, 62% cited congested roads as the key reason why.
Despite a cycling boom during lockdown, latest figures show that road traffic congestion levels have exceeded those from this time last year.
Parents also highlighted pavement parking (32%), dangerous junctions (27%) and narrow and poor quality pavements (17%) as reasons why they didn’t enjoy the school run.
In London, where pavement parking is banned throughout the city under the Greater London (General Purposes) Act 1974, cars parked on pavements was cited by only 6% of parents. 71% of the surveyed parents agreed that local authorities should take steps to make it easier for families to walk and cycle to school.
Over half (54%) of those surveyed supported changes that have already been made to the streets and places in their local area to make active travel to school easier. Building more cycle routes separated from road traffic was identified amongst parents as the number one intervention that would help them and their children cycle to school more (39%).
Xavier Brice, CEO at Sustrans, said: “These figures highlighting why parents currently dislike the school run clearly show that more needs to be done by local authorities to help make walking and cycling the easiest and most appealing options for families travelling to school.
“The journey to school shouldn’t have to be a stressful or negative part of the day, and yet it seems that way for a lot of families across the country. As schools have now returned following closures amid COVID-19, families are looking for safe and socially distanced ways to travel.
“Therefore, there is a real risk people will be locked into car dependency, causing gridlock and adding to dangerous levels of pollution, unless councils provide viable alternatives by making walking and cycling safer for everyday journeys, including the school run.”
As well as changes to the built environment, almost a quarter (23%) of parents recognise cycle training as something that would help their child cycle to school.
Emily Cherry, executive director at The Bikeability Trust, said: “We are encouraged that 23% of parents see cycle training as one of the main ways to encourage their child to start cycling to school more often. We know that high-quality Bikeability training improves the confidence of children and parents alike to cycle and we are working to ensure that our training is available for any school that wants it.
“This term, our Bikeability instructors are delivering training in a way that can meet the Government’s COVID-19 requirements. We have also piloted a new Bikeability module for families, recognising the importance of helping parents and children learn this essential life-skill for healthy, independent travel.”
Cycling and walking minister Chris Heaton-Harris added: “We know cycling and walking is good for our health and happiness – so making it easier for students and their families to build active travel into the school run where they can is a no brainer. Well designed cycling and walking schemes significantly cut rat-running traffic, improve air quality and reduce noise pollution. But we also know we must ensure they work for the whole community.
“That’s why, as part of our £2 billion commitment, we’re closely looking at council plans for future cycling and walking infrastructure, so the journey to and from the classroom is reliable and enjoyable for everyone. We’re also consulting on ways to tackle pavement parking in England and would encourage anybody with an interest to have their say.”
Read the September issue of BikeBiz below: