School Travel As a Product of School System, School Location and Transport Strategies. A Comparative Exploration of Four Northwest European Countries
E de Boer, C D van Goeverden, Delft University of Technology, NL
School travel should have priority in developing sustainable transport. The contribution to this goal by school system, school location and school transport policies is assessed for four countries, presenting travel data.
School travel may be regarded to be a key factor in developing sustainable travel. Children have to develop the ability to participate in travel on their own, on foot, by bike or by public transport, if necessary. There is a tendency towards passive transport in the back seat of a car.
The opportunities for sustainable school travel are affected by three types of government policies. The school system is decisive for the scale of individual schools and thus for the size of catchment areas. Location policies decide whether soft travel modes can be used. Transport strategies are likely to have a large impact on the choice for certain travel modes.
The education travel motive is neglected by transport science. It is molded strongly on a national basis and therefore hard to understand for foreigners. It makes comparative international studies rare. Yet this type of study is essential for the development of insights into the potential relations between the factors which are moulding school travel.
These factors which can explain school travel are analysed for four countries: the Flanders ?community? of Belgium, England, the German state of Niedersachsen and the Netherlands.
General characteristics of the school system are presented with a focus on the two aspects: the relative freedom of education for both providers and customers and the relative integration in education: early differentiation or an undivided school up to an age of about 16. The Netherlands know a large degree of freedom, Germany the distinct opposite.
Location policies are discussed with regard to two types of policies: the policy to cluster different schools at one location and (not unrelated) the policy to relocate schools to suburbia. These are tendencies which prove to be rather common. The Netherlands are champion in clustering primary schools though.
School transport policies show large differences from massive school bus transport in rural Germany to the near absence of it in the Netherlands in areas with a similar geography.
School travel data are presented for the Netherlands, Flanders and Britain, based on their respective national travel surveys. The analysis shows that, given differences in the school system, location policies like the use of rural satellites may have a significant impact on travel. School bus transport, lying at the end of the causal chain, may have a range of functions: compensating for school closures (Niedersachsen, like the USA), exercising free school choice, reducing car travel (England, Flanders) and avoiding traffic hazard. The integration with general transport policies may generate both surprising levels of cycling (Netherlands) and questionable quality in bus transport (Niedersachsen).
Association for European Transport