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Travel back to school safely

Published Tuesday, 1 September 2020

City of York Council has teamed up with walking and cycling charity Sustrans to urge parents across York to try walking, cycling or scooting with their children to school to create a safer, less congested, more healthy environment for start of the new term.

As schools reopen, roads are expected to be busier than normal in September, and the council is urging road users to plan ahead when travelling around York, plan ahead and use public transport outside of peak hours and walk or cycle where possible.

Parents who can opt to leave the car at home or park (or wait with their switched engine off) away from the school entrance area will help families maintain social distancing as well as reduce congestion and air pollution. More active travel (walking, cycling or scooting) will also help support public transport to cope with Covid secure measures which have reduced capacity.

Recently released guidance from the Department for Education shows that due to physical distancing restrictions on public transport, at least 50 per cent of journeys to school of two miles or less need to be walked and cycled to allow space for those on public transport who need to travel further.

Around 69 per cent of children in York currently walk, cycle or scoot to school, a figure that rises up to 85 per cent in some schools during active travel incentive days. The council is encouraging schools to sign up for Sustrans’ Bike to School Week from 28 September to 2 October.

The council has recently renewed Sustrans’ contract to work intensively with eight primary schools in York, helping to support an increase in children walking, cycling and scooting to school and a reduction in congestion. Following a successful pilot at Carr Junior School earlier this year, some schools will also redesign their school street, aiming to make them safer and healthier for the whole community.

At Carr Junior School Sustrans’ designers worked with children to assess the problems around the school gate and suggest improvements such as informal street crossings and build-outs. In March, Sustrans tested the designs and gathered feedback from local residents and these can now be developed through the active travel fund measures.

Councillor Andy D’Agorne, Executive Member for Transport, said:

“Getting young people back to school is a top priority and with current social distancing guidelines, how they travel to and from school will be different.

“The number of people who can get on public transport is limited. If this leads to an increase in people driving, delays around schools will increase for everybody and affect the wider transport network, so we need help to encourage everyone to think carefully about their travel options

“Now is a good time to make that change to travel to and from school by walking, cycling or scooting as alternative ways to travel.

Katrina Adam, schools officer in York for Sustrans, said:

“As we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, it’s really important that schools and families work together to ensure that the school run is as safe and healthy as possible for everyone. Active travel is a great option for families looking for physically distanced ways to move around.

“Regular daily exercise is really important to stay healthy, and active travel is an easy way to incorporate exercise into your day. Travelling actively also spreads the arrival of families at the school gate, reducing congestion and increasing the space available to everyone.

“We know from our work with children that they want to walk, cycle or scoot their journeys to school. Bike to School Week at the end of September is a great way to get inspired. Please go to our website to find out about free events, competitions and information packs!”

For more information on Bike to School week please go to: www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/projects/2019/uk-wide/bike-to-school-week/

Visit letsbeyork and www.itravelyork.info for further information on getting back to school safely.