Pushing the smart way to travel to school

Cycling is a sustainable way to travel.
Cycling is a sustainable way to travel.

Fresh efforts are being made to reduce the number of pupils being driven to school.

The GoSmarter in North Tyneside scheme not only aims to change behaviour, but involves physical changes to streets near schools to encourage more sustainable travel.

It raises awareness of the consequences of making short car journeys to school, including impacts on air quality, the health benefits of walking and cycling and the associated congestion and parking that can create road-safety issues.

Its first year is focused on 25 schools that have been assessed as benefitting most from improvements. It will be delivered for North Tyneside Council by Capita’s sustainable transport team.

Coun John Harrison, cabinet member for housing and transport, said: “We’re committed to encouraging and enabling sustainable travel, including school journeys.

“Currently more than half of pupils in the borough walk or use a bike to get to school – this scheme focuses on where a different choice is made.

“In some areas, at the beginning and the end of the school day, nearby streets are extremely busy with cars and this can prove a deterrent to cycling or walking.”

The initiative follows the regional Go Smarter initiative, which in 2015 included the council’s Be a smarter parker campaign. This encouraged parents to park considerately if driving to school. The council has also implemented 20mph zones around each of the borough’s schools to reduce speeds of cars.

The schools forming part of the new initiative were chosen based on factors including the number of journeys by car, severity of parking issues and health inequalities.

One of the sustainable transport team’s first steps is to analyse the distances and areas from which pupils are driven.

In addition, working with each school, the team delivers an educational session and then conducts a street audit with a class of pupils.

This includes a walk around the school site and neighbouring streets, which leads to the development of travel plans, car-free days and identification of infrastructure improvements.

Schools are encouraged to appoint a staff travel champion and travel ambassadors among pupils, who will work jointly on both challenging driving and encouraging active travel.

Battle Hill Primary School is one tof those involved in the project and has already carried out its street audit.

Headteacher Louise Wells said: “Taking part in the Street Audit really increased our Year 4 children’s awareness of features on the roads in the local area and made them think about the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.

“They came up with lots of suggestions for improvements.”

Borough-wide, 39 per cent of pupils are driven to school. The target is for schools to achieve less than 20 per cent of pupils being driven to school and more than 10 per cent of pupils cycling.

Schools will earn bronze, silver and gold awards based on their progress. The most successful school, champions, ambassadors and initiatives will be celebrated at the North East Modeshift STARS Regional Awards.