Planning to Cut the School Run
H Moore, Cambridgeshire County Council, UK
The school-run makes a significant contribution to rush-hour traffic congestion. Nationally, it is estimated that around 20 per cent of all traffic on the roads between 8 and 9 am is involved with taking children to school. In an attempt to address this problem, Cambridgeshire County Council has, for the last three years, worked in partnership with a group of eight independent schools and two 6th form colleges in Cambridge, all of which lie in a tightly defined geographical area within the Trumpington Road/Hills Road/Long Road triangle. What these schools have in common is a widely distributed school population across a broad catchment area (a radius of up to 40 miles). In addition, unlike children attending state-funded schools, those in the independent sector do not qualify for subsidised travel. These special characteristics rule out traditional ?Safer Routes to School? measures focussing on the school gate and the walkable distance to entitlement to free transport, and alternative strategies were needed.
In April 2001, Hannah Moore was appointed as ?School Travel Plan Coordinator?, with a remit to work with these ten establishments to promote the use of public transport and Park and Ride facilities, while also encouraging walking, cycling and car-sharing. Although the word ?travel plan? is rarely used at the regular working group meetings, every aspect of the work epitomises the concept of planning for green travel.
Annual travel surveys of students at each school revealed a great reliance on the car (averaging 40% across the whole partnership, but ranging from 20% among the older students at the 6th form colleges, to 71% among the pre-teenage children at the Perse Preparatory School). Surveys suggested a willingness to consider alternatives modes of travel, but identifying appropriate travel options for a geographical dispersed population of children, across the entire school-age range, is the major challenge of this job. Fear of strangers is cited as a barrier to younger children?s use of buses, while the fact that several families have two or more children attending more than one school, encourages many parents to do a single-handed ?cross-Cambridge run?.
An early success has been persuading two of the schools to put on a minibus shuttle service from the newly opened Park and Ride site in Trumpington. A tutor-led ?show of hands? survey had suggested that around 10 per cent of the 600 or so students attending these schools drove past that site each day. On the first day of operation, 34 children used the buses, but by the end of the first week numbers had risen to 54 - pleasingly close to the target. The youngest passenger was five years old. Three other schools have now decided to run their own shuttle service. Another promising sign has been to persuade the schools to give in-principle agreement to joining a cross-partnership car-sharing scheme. A shared database will ensure that journeys carrying siblings to multiple schools can be replaced by single destination trips carrying possibly unrelated children.
The scope for future successes is huge. Working in a partnership enables cross-fertilisation of ideas. It also introduces an element of competition - which is the greenest school? As businesses, the schools need to sell the advantages of their school but travel difficulties hardly score well. As busy people, parents hope to cut down time spent in traffic jams. As budding environmentalists, children want to be able to act locally while thinking globally. The challenge is to harness these enthusiasms into workable but sustainable options for travel to school.
Association for European Transport