Tuesday, 20 November 2018
First published in Governing Matters, the magazine of the National Governance Association, November 2018. Author: Foster, A.
|A family cycling to school at Bessemer Grange Primary in Southwark|
As a member of a local Safe Routes to School forum, I know that some school leaders are battling with dangerous driving, illegal parking and hostile, aggressive behaviour around the school gates at peak times. Whilst leaders are focused on guaranteeing educational attainment in the face of swingeing budget cuts, the school run issue has started to absorb valuable resources as school’s attempt to keep pupils and their families safe.
Making the school run and our school streets safer and healthier is an urgent issue. The answer seems so simple; leaving the car at home and instead walking or cycling to school. If everyone did this, there would be some 25% reduction in the volume of traffic on the roads at peak times. So how?
Active travel (walking, cycling or otherwise travelling ‘actively’) has been called ‘a wonder drug’ by public health doctors, due to the huge benefits it can be bring to both physical and mental health. Schools are invited to join active travel schemes, such as Modeshift, in order to encourage families to switch from driving to active travel choices, in turn making the roads safer and cleaner as traffic volumes decrease.
But what is perhaps lesser known within school communities is the benefits active travel can have on educational attainment. Dr Darshana Bhattacharjee’s 2015 research highlights the benefits of active travel to school, concluding; ‘There is convincing evidence that physical activity and fitness levels in school children is associated with better academic scores and improved classroom behaviour.’ Equally, a Danish study of nearly 20000 students found those who walked or cycled “have an increased power of concentration, and the effect of this ‘exercise’ lasts all morning.”’
So why is it so few families do indeed walk or cycle to school?
The answer it seems, is our roads. Land transport accidents are the biggest cause of death for young people aged 5 to 19 and parents are rightly concerned about whether the healthy travel choice is actually the safe travel choice.
As a governor, parents’ and carers’ travel choices may seem a difficult thing to influence but this is decidedly not the case and in fact, an active travel plan ought to be a key facet of any school improvement plan.
Reaching out and forging connections with the local community and elected representatives is hugely important and can achieve great things. Inviting councillors or cabinet members to attend school play streets can open up discussions about what kind of community the school wishes to be part of. Working in partnership with other local schools can also strengthen relationships with local authorities, so that road engineering treatments can be directed around schools, creating safer walking and cycling routes to enable active travel, as recommended by the recent NICE paper on physical activity and the environment. Furthermore, making sure your school has a school travel plan and is using SMART targets to meet the goals within it is vital.
This may seem a challenge, give that the agenda of an average governors' meeting is often jam-packed with little room for non-data related topics. However, there are ways of making safer, active travel a whole school priority. Dan Kelly, a parent governor at Stoneydown Park Primary School in Waltham Forest describes how he 'made himself useful' before talking to the headteacher about his plans for a road closure scheme on their school street .
"Because I was the link governor for SEND, I spent a lot of time in school and had really established a positive working relationship with the SLT before asking for time at one of our governors meetings to present on active travel. Luckily, our head is really supportive of this kind of whole school, healthy lifestyles approach and we were able to go to our local authority as a united community when asking for the quite radical changes we wished to see.
It took some time, but we're really proud of the fact that our council supported our proposals, putting in the road closure we asked for. We've seen the number of cars passing the school drop by 1000 journeys per day and an equivalent rise in cycling traffic, which is phenomenal."
Such proposals may seem radical today given how many children in the UK are driven to school each day. Yet as studies demonstrate the disproportionate effect poor air quality from motor traffic can have on children’s health (and indeed future health), it may be time to acknowledge that being radical is now the only way forward.
What you can do to help:
1. Ask about your schooltravel plan and how active travel rates are monitored. Schools in London can become accredited using the Transport for London STARS scheme (https://stars.tfl.gov.uk/) and Modeshift STARS is the national scheme (https://modeshiftstars.org/). Accredited schools are often able to use their work for these schemes as evidence when applying for grants and active travel funding.
2. Read the National Education Union and British Lung Foundation ‘air pollution health advice for schools’ (available online at https://neu.org.uk/latest/national-education-union-and-british-lung-foundation-launch-air-pollution-health-advice).
The Cleaner Air 4 Primary Schools toolkit was designed for schools in London, but is filled with activities for launching an air quality awareness campaign in school (https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/ca4s_toolkit.pdf).
3. Contact your local politicians. Invite councillors or cabinet members to visit the school at peak time if you wish to highlight an issue; alternatively or to celebrate your achievements. Many councils are creating informal clean air zones and good practice clusters, aiming to get schools working together, trialling new measures.
4. Organise a play street. A temporary road closure, even as a one off, might do much to start the conversation about what road safety means to your school community. Theme it around clean air or road safety and invite a charity such as ‘Idling Action’ or your local road safety officers, to highlight the impact driving to school has on children’s health and wellbeing.
5. Find out what parents think. It may be that many parents are interested in active travel but feel too intimidated by the road and traffic conditions in the local area. A parent champion can work wonders; organising play streets, running cycle skills sessions and building support from other parents are all vital if bigger changes are to happen.
Tuesday, 2 October 2018
· The benefits of walking: health, social cohesion, economic, environmental
· How to make London into a great walking place as currently there is a gross misallocation of space with overcrowded streets. Cross Rail bringing more people in, London made of medieval streets and large 19thcentury created streets.
· How to make walking more compelling – artwork, landscape, views, air quality, sense of community street events, using redundant spaces.
· Need for walking network, joined up routes to reduce short tube journeys, pressure off public transport. Review of pedestrian crossings, improved timings for pedestrians on crossings, diagonal crossings. Walking improvements never become obsolete, unlike docking bikes v dockless bikes for example.
· Make environments attractive to encourage active travel. Use technology, data i.e. Citymapper. Smart streets, using technology to manage traffic flows, looking at innovation. Improve Google maps to include improved walking/cycling routes.
· Need business engagement (Camden High Line and Walk Elephant campaign has been backed by local business).
· 20mph speed limit to be enforced properly.
· Looking at congestion charging 24/7/surcharge after 6pm or user charging.
· Schools – Living Streets walk to school, Sports premium funding () can be used for active travel. Close school streets before and after school. Bridge between school travel and policy makers. School Travel Plans treated as tick boxes. There is a need to change hearts and minds and get parents and governors more involved.
· Children – Street play in residential and on school streets, playing out, temporary play street orders. Design into streets?
· Need to plan for the future. Planning framework for London healthy streets is now embedded. Review schemes that are in the pipeline to improve sustainable travel. Incremental benefits of lots of small schemes. Not to think of London as a single city but in zones as there are different issues with central, inner and outer London.
· Local Authorities have a key role in local walking and cycling plans as Government funding is directed to LAs. Need to consult with much wider communities as poorer communities tend to get the worse deal. LAs should do public engagement and not just consultations.
· Looking at urban development to ensure walking and cycling is incorporated in planning. If you want a modal shift you need logical standards. Instead of predicting what traffic needs, envision and validate new modes – walking as a core of transport mode be built into all planning policies and in infrastructure and neighbourhood plans (most developments of last 10 years have taken no account of modal shift). New buildings not to have excessive parking and to have bike parking as planning regulation.
· How can citizens be involved in travel planning? Plans costing over £200,000, must be published with Healthy Streets checklist. Campaigning needs to be active, rigorous and persistent; important to be active on social media. Pick priorities - physical activity, road traffic injuries, air quality, noise and severance, and then frame these priorities.
· Accessibility and fairness, everyone should be able to access streets. Safety is paramount as pedestrian accidents are increasing.
· Walking cities – a European perspective. Pascal Smet, Brussels Minister, spoke about walking and cycling improvements in Brussels and how the vision was sold with the main objective of improving quality of life and air. Interaction between people in cities is important, if we give cities away to cars we destroy neighbourhoods. Brussels on foot app, useful tool. During the consultation periods, there was a website showing photographs of existing areas with an overlay showing the new design (before and after), this was a very powerful tool to win hearts and minds.
· Car lobby in EU still very strong, we need more sustainable travel activists, very important to instigate change. Politicians rely on votes, lobby fast as car lobby gets in very quickly.
· Generational issue, 17 to 34 not tied to cars, owning a car is something of the past, Smet thought cars will be shared electric vehicles in the next 10 to 15 years in cities.
Friday, 6 July 2018
• The real danger on our roads comes from motor vehicles. This danger has not been reduced; instead we have removed other road users
• Creating safe conditions for cyclists means latent demand is unlocked and more people cycle. If cycling feels like an extreme sport, they won’t
• Improvements in cycling infrastructure in Copenhagen led to a 33% reduction in traffic
• 11% of drivers on Quietway 1 now cycle. Quietways are popular
• Changing road layout in Salisbury Road, SE17 led to a 71% reduction in vehicle traffic, an 83% increase in walking and expanded green space
• Around 15% of traffic evaporates when the emphasis on public space shifts from vehicles to people. In other words, traffic isn’t displaced but people change to healthier modes of travel
• Emergency services do not complain about low traffic measures. Their complaint in fact is that sat navs are not updated
• Focussing on moving people and goods rather than vehicles maximises efficiency
• People who are not in cars use shops and spend locally, even in adverse weather. Footfall goes up
• Places good for people attract business and provide jobs
• Streets become places to spend time, not just thoroughfares. Children play in streets again
• Improving streets for people is politically popular
• The need for political vision, leadership and sustained investment
• The importance of complete networks - door to door
• Focus on moving people, not vehicles
• Importance of good design and maintaining infrastructure
• Provision of good quality, affordable public transport
• Air quality
• Enforcement of road rules
• Huge latentdemandfor safe cycling and walking
• Successful schemes are popular and reduce future opposition
• Clear use of language and data so people understand the benefits
• Linking up separate campaigns
• Gaining the support of political leaders and a critical mass of local authorities to create active travel zones, clean air zones and safe networks
• Using videos of dangerous driving so parents and residents understand the real risks from which proposedsolutionsarise
• Following up with packs including banners and post cards all emphasising the data and quality of life evidence
• Getting police on board to help with enforcement
• Information packs to help plan routes
• Publicising cycling apps and travel planning apps
• Rewarding engagement, not just distance travelled
SRS was able to attend the conference due to the support of JAPS. Many thanks!