Richard Evans, School Travel Adviser, explained that the service supported 80 Hammersmith and Fulham schools in preparing school travel plans which aimed to reduce car use and increase active travel.
Mr Evans explained that there was evidence that an active journey to school, such as walking or cycling, could improve pupils’ academic performance, as well as reducing congestion and air pollution. A third of 11 year olds were either overweight or obese and active travel would also help to reduce this. 75 of the borough’s 344 places of education were within 150 metres of a road where the level of nitrogen dioxide was above the legal limit; reducing the number of cars travelling to these schools would help to improve the quality of air pupils were breathing.
The service used a wide range of incentives to get schools to complete travel plans and promote active travel including:
- Bike it sessions which were fun activities involving bicycles such as decorating bikes or using one to make smoothies.
- Small grants for environmental improvements to schools which would help encourage active travel. Grants had been spent on covered waiting areas, new access paths and cycle parking.
- Balance bikes being provided to younger classes to help teach them how to ride bicycles. All the balance bikes used were converted from unwanted old children’s bicycles.
- Larger engineering projects such as traffic calming.
- Children’s competitions such as designing the pictures accompanying 20mph zones or traffic calming.
- Car free days.
- Facilitated research projects for children at the Urban Studies Centre.
- Transport for London’s Star Accreditation scheme.
Car use on the school run had fallen from 20% to 13% on average across all Hammersmith and Fulham schools since STPs were introduced in 2004-5. However, Mr Evans provided several examples of schools with small catchment areas where there are still high levels of car use, e.g. at St John’s Primary School where 92% of pupils live within 2 kilometres of the school and yet 23% travel by car. At some schools car use continued to exceed 40%. Richard Evans felt that further reductions in car use could only be achieved if other more radical interventions were introduced, for example cameras to enforce keep clear markings could be used to deter parents from driving and parking dangerously, whilst at a school in Camden daily temporary road closures had been implemented to keep cars out and children safe.
Councillor Hamilton said that road closures would only be possible in some areas. Richard Evans agreed, and said that such measures could only be introduced with the support of the school and local residents. Councillor Harcourt asked whether members of the committee were happy with the idea of roads being closed. The Chair said that subject to local people’s views on the detail of the closure the idea seemed a good one.
Councillor Hamilton noted that a proportion of pupils lived more than two kilometres away from their school and asked what alternatives to driving were promoted. Richard Evans explained that cycling and public transport were promoted, as were car sharing schemes and park and stride initiatives.
The Chair asked if police were enforcing no stopping markings and whether the new cameras to enforce these zig-zag markings had been used elsewhere. Richard Evans said that police did enforce the lines but that parents returned to bad habits when there were no police at a school; a significant trial of camera enforcement was underway across Hillingdon and their advice on how useful the system was would be sought.
The Chair noted that a number of schools did not engage in school travel planning and asked whether there were any common reasons for this. Richard Evans said that he did not know why schools failed to engage in the process but he did try to get them to, for example, by attending Headteachers meetings and promoting schemes on the schools’ intranet. Where schools needed planning permission for changes to their buildings they could be required by planning officers to engage and develop a travel plan. Councillor Culhane asked what support was available to schools to make engaging easy. Richard Evans said that he had a budget to pay for supply cover for teachers working on school travel plans and that it only took one person at a school to take a lead on the issue to start the process; staff, parents and pupils could then be engaged through surveys etc.
Councillor Cassidy asked how it could be that all of the West London Free School’s parents could have signed no car agreements and yet the school still had 23% of pupils being driven in. Richard Evans explained that the agreements were simply ignored by parents and that the school not enforce them.
The Chair thanked Richard Evans for his work to improve travel to school and wished the service well in continuing to increase rates of active travel.