Sustrans launches the results of the first-ever Scottish national survey into school travel

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The UK's leading sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, launched the results of the first-ever Scottish national survey into school travel on Friday, May 1, 2009. Well over 400,000 school pupils took part in the survey, across 29 of Scotland's 32 local authority areas.

Sustrans now has an in-depth view for the first time of how children of different ages, from different schools, and in different areas of Scotland travel to school. The survey was carried out by a network of School Travel Co-ordinators based within Scotland's local authorities and is set to be undertaken on an annual basis from now on.

The 'Hands Up' survey shows that 51.8 per cent of Scottish children travel to school by active travel methods such as walking, cycling and using scooters – more than those who travel by car, bus or taxi (47.7 per cent). The survey also shows that the number of Scottish children cycling and walking to school is higher than expected, with 2.8 per cent cycling and 48.3 per cent walking.

By comparison 27.6 per cent of Scottish children were driven to school for all or part of their journey (6.1 per cent of this figure took the car for part of their journey and walked the remainder) while 18.7 per cent took the bus.

The results of the survey have been launched at the same time as Sustrans publishes the end of year report for its 'Tackling the School Run' programme of projects aimed at encouraging cycling and walking at 103 schools across Scotland. Over 2007/08, Sustrans was funded to the tune of £3.8million by the Scottish Government to deliver practical measures, such as cycle paths and cycle storage facilities for schools, as well as education campaigns for school children and their teachers.

  • Some of the projects delivered through the 'Tackling the School Run' programme include: funding to create a traffic free path to Buchanhaven Primary School in Peterhead that now keeps children away from a busy A-road;
  • funding the installation of a scooter rack at Airyhall Primary School and the installation of a weatherproof waiting shelter for parents at Danestone School, both in Aberdeen;
  • funding for the establishment of School Bike Loan Schemes at three academies in Glasgow;
  • and setting up a cycle club offering discounted bikes, cycle training and bike maintenance classes to school pupils in South Edinburgh.
The 'Tackling the School Run' report shows that, where money is invested in promoting active travel to school, the number of children travelling to school by cycle or on foot rises sharply. This has a knock-on positive effect on local traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as children's health.

As a result of Sustrans' 'Tackling the School Run' programme, there has been:
  • A doubling (on average) of the use of cycling and walking routes around project schools
  • 135,690 more cycling and walking trips to school throughout Scotland
  • 30,929 young people now have access to safer walking and cycling routes to school
Reducing car use on the school run through encouraging and enabling more children to walk and cycle is important as it reduces harmful air pollution and traffic congestion around schools and helps tackle childhood obesity by helping more children to take regular exercise. It also assists the Scottish Government to meet its targets for reducing CO2 emissions.

William Methven, Sustrans' Manager for School Travel in Scotland said: "The results from our 'Tackling the School Run' programme and the 'Hands Up' survey are very encouraging. We are pleased to see that the work we have been doing in partnership with School Travel Coordinators and the Scottish Government is having a positive impact on the way Scottish school children are travelling. The survey results have shown us this, and will now act as a benchmark for all future work that is carried out in Scottish schools to support and encourage pupils to cycle and walk to school."

"It is now very clear that, where money is spent on making walking and cycling safer or easier, the number of children walking and cycling increases. The results of the 'Hands Up' survey will be invaluable in directing our work, and the work of School Travel Coordinators, in the future. We now have a real platform to step up the level of work we do to ensure young people can choose healthy and active ways of travelling to school that also benefit the wider environment."

While this is all very well indeed, and we are seeing that Scottish kids are leading the way, this must be achieved on a nationwide basis.

Also cycling and walking must become a part of commuting to work wherever possible. To this end trains must be improved and more facilities for taking bikes on trains must be made. This would include more frequent trains on the commuter routes during the rush hour times especially and not just half-hourly or even just hourly 8 car trains that end us worse than sardine cans.

Being able to take bikes – maybe a special bike carriage or two would be an idea – on trains during the rush hour traffic would do away, hopefully, with the car journeys to the stations and then the taxi journeys from the stations on the London end, for instance.

We are not talking rocket science here but I also know that we will never got to something like that because the train operators simply are only interested in what's in it for them and if it would cost, at least initially, money then it is obvious that it just won't happen.

The god is profit and nothing seems to be able to change that.

© 2009