The safe routes to school initiative is to support projects in the UK which enable and encourage children to cycle and walk to school by improving street design, calming traffic, creating traffic-free spaces and linking with the National Cycle Network.
The Safe Routes to School projects are a co-operative between local authorities, school staff and students, parents and local residents. In 1998 the government passed a White Paper, 'A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone', which gives extensive support to the project. The main benefits are:
The amount of traffic on our roads make them dangerous places, and this is one of the reasons parents feel it necessary to drive their children to school. 21% of secondary school children travel to school by car and over 38% of primary school children. Apart from road danger, one reason may be that children are traveling further to school due to parental choice and the closure of rural schools. However, 67% of children actually live less than 2 miles from school, a distance that could easily be walked or cycled if the right conditions are there.
It is not only the dangers of traffic that parents are concerned with nowadays, as there are other dangers that children face too. The escorting responsibilities of parents has risen sharply in the last 15 years. Over half of British parents escort their children to school and elsewhere for peace of mind as much as anything. The average mother of two or more children devotes nearly one hour of each working day to this. If parents feel that their children are safe then they would encourage them to walk or cycle more, for example with friends and other parents through 'Walking Bus' schemes. Teachers and students resource packs are available and Sustrans can supply further information and contacts on practical ways to help with the Safe Routes to School projects.Parents can get involved, for example by leading 'Walking Buses', schools can introduce more school travel policies. The initiative is supported by government and local councils are making changes to highway and other approaches to schools.
If you would like to know more or get involved in setting up a Safe Route to School project, then contact Sustrans' 'Safe Routes to School' team on 0117 915 0100 or visit www.saferoutestoschools.org.uk