Friday, 22 April 2016

Stories From The School Run: Rosie's Story

This week, we have been collecting your #schoolrunstories for our little pop-up campaign "Stories From The School Run". This week's post has photos by my daughter, Rosie (7) and it shows her typical journey.

The school run to our local primary school has always been on foot for Rosie as it was for her brother now at secondary school and as it will be for her little sister in a couple of years. Our walk is just under 500 metres and it takes about 6 minutes.

The walk is normally pleasant as the little ones blast along on their scooters, buggies are pushed and the kids skip along. There is the occasional bike, but it is always being ridden on the footway and as we get close to the school, it is obvious why;

As we approach the school, the normally (relatively) quiet road (despite feeding 3 industrial estates) starts to fill up with cars and pretty much all of them are dropping kids off.

Par for the course, fellow parents blocking driveways. Amazingly, we are walking through a footway parking bay which isn't being used (it's normally full).

The parking on the far side of the road pushes traffic closer to the kerb which is not particularly pleasant. We do have yellow lines at the junctions which are generally respected and so makes it easier to see when crossing the side roads.

We are running a little late which is why the footway isn't that busy (Rosie was on time though!). As well as feeding the industrial estate with lorries the road is a bus route; so the traffic calming is designed for large vehicles. There are no humps as HGVs and humps don't mix without causing noise and vibration. Note the blue car in the distance.

The traffic calming is priority pinch points. The parking helps clog them up and people have to drive very slowly which is perhaps a good thing!

We are starting to get parking on both sides now and still plenty of parents driving off after delivering their kids to school.

Remember the blue car? Yes, it was "parked" like that.

As we reach the school gate, the obligatory car parked on the zig-zags of the zebra crossing on the right hand side of the photograph.

I think the photos are fairly representative of what it's like to walk to our local school. The vast majority of kids walk and scoot, but the road outside is completely clogged up by a relatively small minority of parents. 

It's the age old problem of people having busy lives and many dropping the kids off as they are going on to work after. They are driving because there is no real alternative for them and so their behaviour impacts on everyone else who is not driving. Perhaps if people parked further away and walked for 5 minutes, there might be a bit more space which could be re-purposed for walking and cycling? Welcome to Suburbia.


  1. Pinch points are good at reducing speed where 1) demand is roughly even in each direction and 2) where the demand on a road is greater than the number of vehicles that can pass through a pinch in a given timespan

    It's sadly ineffective where the inverse is true; If demand is unidirectional the dominant demand will 'flow' anyway and outside of peak hours there isn't enough absolute demand on the road space that a pinch will meaningfully hold up anyone. A local (to me) example of this is Wallyford*. If it's after 6pm, speeds are back to 40mph or more with a heavy application of the brakes if a driver really absolutely must give way.


    1. Oh, you're spot on. During the evening/ night, these are not that effective as the road is very quiet and so there is nobody coming the other way most of the time!

  2. I think it may actually be discrimination to not offer cycling and walking as feasible, fast and safe (including social and subjective) means of getting around. Not everyone is capable of having and or using cars. You'd be insane to offer driving lessons to 6 year olds. I need to be 10 years older than that to drive around on my own where I live, although I drive pretty well currently at 15. And does the UK offer free cars and petrol or diesel to those who can't otherwise afford it, and offer a chauffeur driver to those who can't see? No. And what need is there when cycling, walking and public transport are perfectly good means of transport if well designed and accounted for. And by ignoring the elephant in the room and adopting Sustainable Safety, the UK could be going against my right to life (and presumably an injury free life) as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, given that they do so little to nothing about keeping me safe if I am a pedestrian or cyclist in the UK when they have almost all of the laws and designs and money needed to do so.

    One thing that schools can do well is unite parents. It was often parents who supported the original Stop de Kindermoord protests, and everyone was a child at some point, and many adults have children, especially if they are 30 years old or more. Show parents how the Dutch children have so much freedom and safety, even from kidnappers and cars, and they probably will want that even if it just means that their children will be safer. I don't have any children, but I've heard that once you have one, it becomes the centre of your life and you'd do almost anything for them. I also heard that an American father who walked with his kids to school got arrested for doing that, and was told that he would have to wait in the same line that car drivers do. Absurd.

    I wonder whether your kids Ranty cycle with helmets. You said it's a decision up to the road user, but you never explained how your family decides what to put on their cartons of grey matter when cycling.

    1. It's a good point. Cycling doesn't enter the minds of most because the conditions are so bad.

      Helmets and hi-viz. I don't (I did when I came back to cycling 5 years ago), my son sometimes does, sometimes doesn't. Rosie hasn't learned to ride yet, but she hasn't worn a helmet for practicing and neither her or her little sister do in the cargobike. Mrs RH doesn't cycle (she did a few years ago), but conditions aren't enabling for her to have done so with young children.

    2. I would love it if someone got a picture of an actual highwayman, a thief who preyed on those who travelled on the roads, put that big white R on the blue background, and gave it a speech bubble that made it describe how you rant on (or 5-20 paragraphs) about the kerbs, and don't get me started on the city. That would be an awesome picture for you. Just don't get hanged, at least if you do, try to be a freeman of the city of London, you get a silk rope that way.

      The only reason I wear a helmet these days is that my dad won't cover the fine for if I do and a cop decides to give me a ticket (just a little more than 2 years and I'll be 18 and I can ignore that law in relation to how it affects me).

      If you focus on children a lot, you have a few advantages. Children are rarely considered an outgroup. Everyone is either a child or used to be a child. Many people have children of their own, and so they'd do just about anything for them. It shows that a cycling facility must be suitable for everyone's capabilities.

      I remember David Hembrow on the phone (you can ask him about this story too if you want, I love it because it shows how safe their children are considered to be, and kinda makes me jealous) who told me that when he was moving to Assen, 2 weeks after the move, his daughter's school (13 at the time, more like 23 now) had a dance, and he and his daughter (I know their names, I don't know whether the internet should have them though) cycled to the school together at 9 PM, and David found himself as the only parent there. He returned at midnight and thought "surely the parents would be there by that point". Nope. No other parent came. All of the students went home by themselves. 13 year olds. On their own, with pitch black, and many of the Dutch don't have perfectly functioning headlights. At least children rarely drink alcohol or use anything like marijuana (many try the latter a couple times, find it boring and move on. It works quite well actually apparently. David has personal experience, and because he's in the Netherlands, he won't get arrested for that) so they aren't under the influence although distracted cycling is an issue. One of the other kids cycled 10 km through the forest to get home. Nobody thought that she would be assaulted, killed by a car, the worst thing that was all that likely was hitting a lamppost and having to get back up again or the bike would get stolen.

      British, and many other English speaking Commonwealth countries or the US, would scream everything from rapist, mugger, druggie, thief, paedo, (I use the British spelling for convenience), drunk driver, everything bad, against this action.

      Back to children in general, it also shows why the fast and furious isn't the goal. On the downside, we might think of children as slow, rule obeying and or foolish, and being naive. It can be true, I had no idea what the LGTB community was when I was 11 (I still can't believe it, and I live in Canada of all places). I was taking the bus and came home at ~9 PM and it felt like it was a disaster and I was terribly late and it was completely a bad idea to ever do that again, at 13! I still feel like 9:30 is rather late to be cycling, and I'm nearly 16. In a few months I could drive a car on the motorway on my own (legal where I live) if I had the keys lawfully at 110 km/h (and everyone goes 120 or 130, but the insurance premium goes way up after that if I got a ticket). And I could do that drive at 2 Am in the morning so long as I was sufficiently awake (not hard to do given that I'm a night owl.

      Uh oh, I think I'm turning into you Ranty. Now I've made such a long rant. Sorry (I can't help it, Canadians really do say sorry all of the time for even the smallest inconveniences, except when we have a conservative government, in which case they had a hard time even saying sorry for First Nations abuses).

  3. Something else I point out is that this road by the school is an example of why extra "safety" signs are a pointless endevour. Imagine you're walking at night facing traffic. You come across a sign that says "only 1 pedestrian has been injured or killed here in the last 2 years". That's not very reassuring. You don't feel safer because of some sign. You feel safe (or not) because of the layout. Walking directly next to the traffic with only a small curb is like cycling in Copenhagen, it's better than being on the road but it doesn't feel all that much safer.

    The Dutch also want to create roads where you can predict what you are going to find next. On most 50 km/h roads you expect a curb on either side and a centre line (although this is optional under certain volume conditions), if you're parallel to a bicycle route then the cyclists have a separate path, and you have priority over side roads, otherwise you connect via roundabouts or traffic lights. On 30 km/h roads you are on brick paving, with or without parking, the latter of which would be in dedicated bays physically separated from the road, narrow roads, usually no priority over side roads, and usually mixed cycling with cars if the volume is low. If you need a sign to do something on the road other than being a guide sign towards specific destinations, there's a good chance that the predictability function may not be working quite as expected. Very few signs are needed in a Sustainably Safe road. A roundabout only needs the circle arrow sign and the give way sign, a set of traffic lights only needs signals, no signs, everything is intuitive based on the way that the signs work. An access road doesn't really need any signs at all for the most part.

    1. As a general principle, if you need a sign to explain how the road ahead works, it is probably a failed design. Mind you, directional signage will always be needed and they can be used to show what the road ahead looks like - so much better than a basic warning sign.

    2. I guess you call it a directional sign and I call it a guide sign. Same result either way.

      And if you need a sign to explain to adults, how are children like those next to this school going to understand it in an instant when riding by at 18 km/h?

    3. And if they're blowing the money on slickly-produced videos or running web sites/ social media accounts about it instead, it's probably a cycling `scheme' :-)?