The school run is a major source of traffic and air pollution across our towns and cities. In London, for example, the traffic attributed to the school drop-off and pick-up, according to TfL, accounts for nearly 50% of the traffic during 8-9AM and 3-4PM during term terms. The unfortunate result, in short, is that some of our worst pollution hotspots are to be found around schools located on busy and congested roads.
Increasingly though, schools are encouraging parents, pupils and staff to ditch the car and use safe and sustainable ways of traveling, such as cycling, walking and public transport.
The benefits of public transport for students (of all ages), according to SusTrans the cycling promotion charity, are clear:
Time-saving for parents if their children are able to travel to and from school independently
Reduced costs and carbon emissions compared to low-occupancy car use
Supporting local public transport services benefits the wider community
Reduced number of cars in the streets around the school, making it safer and more attractive for those who walk, cycle, scoot or skate
Develops independence and valuable life skills
Can help young people to access future education, training and employment opportunities by widening the places they can travel to independently.
Furthermore, if students can be persuaded to walk (or combine a walk with public transport) rather than take the car, there are some very compelling health benefits; just two ten minute walks a day can improve health and wellbeing and reduce the dangers of developing a range of health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
In London, the Transport for London STARS programme provides support to help young Londoners think differently about travel and its impact on their health, wellbeing and the environment and has over 1500 London schools, nurseries, and colleges taking part. Each year the programme actively promotes the ‘World Car Free Day’ to prompt car users to ditch their cars for one day, hoping to trigger a longer-term adoption of more sustainable forms of transport.
But schools, colleges, and universities also face the challenge of how to actively promote alternative forms of transit. Historically, timetables may have been pinned to a noticeboard, copies kept in the library or posted at the school website. But, as we’re all aware, the transit network is subject to constant change, with delays and route modifications. Equally, many schools restrict the use of mobile phones on campus, meaning that students are unaware of real-time transit data.