Friday 16 October 2015

You Put One Foot In Front Of The Other

Today I did the school run. Well, the school walk because we are fortunate that our local primary school is a short walk away.

By short, I mean less than 500 metres or about 6 minutes (a touch more with our aspiring toddler on foot). Like many primary schools, the surrounding streets were choked with parents' parked cars (and in many cases, parked is too precise a word). The school is on a local street which carries a bus route and is access to a couple of small industrial estates, which means all too often we end up with drivers of larger vehicles stuck and facing off with car drivers. Today we had two buses with drivers working hard to get through, but being thwarted by the car drivers who were determined to barge their way through.

How did we get to this point. How did we end up with conditions which are so hostile for walking which should be the first choice for school travel for such short journeys? Like the frog in a pan of water which is being heated up, this hasn't happened overnight. Our boil has taken a generation to bubble up and we are now seeing adults who were driven having kids of their own and following suit. 

Yes, even in the Netherlands, we have streets blocked by drivers on
the school run.
I think it is more complex than simply criticising those who drive their children to school and the answer is more complex than trying to force them out with parking controls and driving restrictions (although this will be part of the answer). 

There are people who drive because of their mobility or that of their child which is fine and they should be assisted. There are those who are on tight schedules and need to get to work after dropping the kids off and there is no decent alternative; although I worry if they are then rushing to get to work in their cars. Then we have the other people, the lazy ones, the ones who want to drive because of perceived status (showing off). We also have a few who will drive because they are not going to be told they can't.

Part of my day job involves working with schools on travel planning in terms of advising on possible engineering measures to enable active travel and I know the school communities yearn for change. In London at least, there is a travel planning accreditation programme (STARS) which awards schools for their own approach to travel planning. The problem is that many now have the gold award and have really done everything they can do for themselves and they are realising that the cold, stark and unshakable conclusion is that we need to change our streets. But more than that, we need to engage with those who drive to try and find out why and to see how they can be helped or enabled to at least get their children to school actively. It has taken us a long time to get here and I fear my walk-rage will continue for the foreseeable future.


  1. Getting help from the Council would be a start. Parents drive up the dead-end street my kids' primary school is on, park on double yellows/ zigzags, then do three-point turns in the road (while other people's kids are crossing it) to get out again. There's a public car park one minute's walk away. It's on the other side of a main road, but there's a pelican crossing. Nobody uses it; the 7yo and I counted four cars in it every morning for a month. I know we can't POSSIBLY expect people to PAY to park safely [sarcasm face] so I suggested to the Council that they let parents park free for 5 mins to drop their kids off. I was told it was impossible because of the 'loss of revenue'. I then went to the local councillors who wrote emails on my behalf but, of course, they got no reply. It makes me MAD that there is such a simple solution and nobody wants to implement it. Instead, I'm worried every day that someone's going to get seriously hurt.

    1. My local authority has provided free parking for 30 minutes where paid-for (including car parks) and it is no difficultly. But, it is the politicians who make the decisions at the end of the day and they often hide behind officers who haven't the budget or empowerment for change.