Stories from the school run

Cycling can provide independent mobility for children - like this in the Netherlands (Photo: Suzanne Forup)

Stories from the school run

A pop up campaign to highlight the challenges parents in getting their children to school on the UK's roads by bike kicks off this week. Our Head of Development Scotland, Suzanne Forup, is contributing her preschool run film to the campaign.

Is your school run like cycling the road to hell, or is it biking the bright side of the road all the way?

According to the National Travel Survey: England 2014 46% of 5-10 year olds and 38% of 11-16 year olds walk to school. Walking to school has been in a gradual decline for over a decade with car-based school trips growing. In the mid Seventies, the walking mode share was 74% for primary and 53% for secondary school children.

Cycling fares even more poorly as it has essentially been flat-lining at 1% for primary school children and 2% for secondary school children; this is in common with the travel habits of the wider population where cycling mode share is around 1 - 2% on average.

In Scotland we do slightly better, the Hands Up Scotland survey in 2014 put active travel to school at 50.4%, with 3.4% of children cycling. Compared to the Netherlands though, where 50% of school age children cycle, we're still languishing. 

People cite many reasons why active travel by children has declined, but most parents would agree that conditions for walking and cycling are often poor – and regularly dangerous

My son complains it’s [the ride to school] not like our cycling holiday in the Netherlands where he was able to roam for miles under his own steam!"

I’m comparatively fortunate; our half a mile journey is in Dunbar, a small town with one of the highest rates of walking, cycling and scooting to school in Scotland. The new housing developments on the other side of town have been built with active travel in mind, and only last week we discovered a new off road path leading from the most recent development to one of the primary school campuses.

From the historic heart of our town it’s more of a challenge to travel actively. We have a truck infested High Street to cross and no less than 19 driveways to assess for moving vehicles before we roll into the playground. That’s after we leave the house, which can be a challenge in itself as I wrote about a couple of years ago.

As I told the Scottish Minister for Transport and the Islands at a conference last year, my son complains it’s not like our cycling holiday in the Netherlands where he was able to roam for miles under his own steam!

A group of parents are now shining a light on the school run next week by inviting videos documenting school run journeys.

The idea behind Stories From The School Run came after watching this video from Tim Lennon documenting a cycling trip with his two daughters in Richmond, London. The organisers say that “This simple and normal activity should be enjoyable and safe, not nerve wrecking and unbelievably draining. Yet, so many of us, in so many places around the UK, feel the latter when attempting to take the kids out on their bikes for the school run or on any other trips. We want to change that by showing what’s really like out there”

You can contribute to the action by filming your own school run – by any active means – next week and uploading it to the website. If you can't manage a film, write a blog or take some photos – anything that shows what it’s like to travel in your children’s shoes.

You can find out more about Cycling UK's views on cycle-friendly schools and colleges in our campaign's briefing.

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