It is estimated that 1 in 5 of the cars on the road during the morning peak are taking children to school (National Travel Survey 2010) – the notorious “school run”. This extra vehicle traffic contributes to congestion, particularly in urban areas.
This not only causes pollution, it also relies on dwindling and increasingly expensive fossil fuels and is a significant cost for families.
Approximately 13,000 school children (15%) travel to school on free transport provided by the county council. This is an environmentally sustainable way to travel, but comes at a significant cost to the taxpayer.
High levels of vehicle traffic are closely linked with health problems. These range from direct injuries through road traffic crashes and exposure to traffic fumes, through to the increased risk of long-term health problems including obesity, heart disease and diabetes associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
A 2008 survey (Living Streets) demonstrated that children who walk to school from a young age show greater road safety awareness and better knowledge of their neighbourhood than those who are driven.
95% of LEA schools in Somerset (86% of all schools) now have a travel plan, developed with assistance from the Council’s School Travel Adviser team over the period from 2006- to 2011. Over this time, single-occupancy car use for school travel dropped from 29.2% to 25.3%.
Somerset School Travel Strategy (August 2012)
Aim: To help people walk and cycle to Somerset’s schools and make Somerset County Council's (SCC) school transport services and infrastructure more efficient.
1: Help everyone take part – provide information, advice and resources that can be easily accessed, adapted and implemented by schools in a manner appropriate to their individual circumstances
2: Focus additional resources where the is most potential for change – in addition to the countywide support provided under Objective 1, deliver additionalchange by working more intensively with schools where there is greatest potential for change, or problems to be tackled.
3: Make the most of what we have - ensure the transport services we provide are as efficient as possible and target our work at what pupils need, using he techniques that deliver the best results.
4: Work with a changing environment - Ensure school travel provision and he travel planning process are able to respond to changes in the way education is provided and meet the challenges of a new, more flexible school environment and changing resource availability.
The full document is available, along with other elements of Somerset County Council's Active Travel Strategy, on the SCC.website.