Headlines: October 15th, 2004

The way has been cleared for local education authorities to develop safe walking and cycling routes to school and for some of them to tackle the congestion created by the daily school run through innovative schemes.The Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling announced funding of ten million pounds for authorities to create the new safer routes. The Links to Schools programme will extend the National Cycle Network, to bring it closer to schools, making it easier and safer for pupils to walk or cycle. The department says 230 schools will benefit directly from the funding to 100 local authorities. The grant will go to Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, which built the 8,000 miles of the National Cycle Network. It will now oversee the building of new links from the Network to schools in different parts of England.

At the same time the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke has confirmed that a School Transport Bill will be introduced to enable up to 20 local education authorities to bring in schemes to deal with congestion outside schools. Up to 200,000 pounds in government funding will be available to kick start each scheme. The Bill will allow LEAs to try schemes such as walking buses, ‘park and stride’ schemes where parents drop children off at an agreed location for them to be escorted to school, staggered starting times for schools and more high quality school buses.

Mr. Darling said the government was determined to ensure that cycling and walking to school became a safe and healthy option for children and to reassure parents that children are safe when going to and from school. Charles Clarke said the number of children being driven to school had doubled in the last 20 years. Most of their journeys are less than two miles. “Our proposals would encourage local education authorities to come up with 21st century solutions to make walking, cycling and bus travel safe, green, healthy options for more schools and their pupils, while allowing authorities who are content with their current arrangements to retain them,” he said.