The first report of the School Travel Advisory Group (STAG), set up to find ways to reduce the numbers of children travelling to school by car, sets out the enormity of the task.The group has set itself the target of slowing and then reversing the steeply rising trend in car use, to return by 2010 to the level of walking, cycling and bus use in the mid-1980s.
The report’s recommendations focus on giving children greater travel choices and on improving safety on the journey to and from school. Suggested measures include better, more affordable and better targeted transport to school, more road safety education for children and bus drivers, and improving enforcement of speed, parking and other traffic regulations.
The Government is now considering how to fund facilities such as lockers, secure cycle storage and bus bays, and has commissioned a study into ways to increase bus use for journeys to school.
Already, 37 schools have been chosen to take part in a pilot scheme which will offer free expert advice in developing tailor-made School Travel Plans, and it is intended to roll out a larger programme if the pilot proves a success.
Over the last ten years the proportion of journeys to school by car has nearly doubled, from 16% to 29%. At 8.50 in the morning in term time, one in five cars on urban roads is taking children to school. Only one in eleven primary pupils now goes to school unaccompanied, while only ten years ago, one in five did.
Over the same period, the average length of the journey to school for secondary pupils has gone up by a third from 2.3 to 3.1 miles, so that more pupils now live too far away to walk to school.