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AA Foundation report on parenst and the school run

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  • Simon Baddeley
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2000

      Comments by Simon Baddeley

      “The Family and the School Run” is a report by Peter Jones and Ruth Bradshaw
      of the Transport Studies Group at the University of Westminster
      (www.wmin.ac.uk/courses/transport/researchtran.htm) that appeared in
      mid-June commissioned by the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research (reports
      are available from the Foundation for £20 and free summaries can be obtained
      by phoning 01256 491925)

      It is common knowledge that car journeys taking children to and from school
      have increased in the last 30 years. Where in the 70s the majority of
      children walked or cycled, most now go by car adding to rush hour congestion
      and pollution, making other drivers long for the school holidays, and in the
      opinion of many, including children, preventing them making their way to
      school on their own or in groups.

      By including the school run in their 1998 report on transport the Government
      was seeking to focus policy attention on an identifiable group of people who
      might be persuaded to change their travel habits and in the process reduce
      road congestion, improve health and independence and by getting more
      people – parents and children - out on the streets enhance community safety.
      The same process of individualising the issue to parents – usually “mums” -
      gave some other drivers an identifiable group to blame for congestion.

      Jones and Bradshaw, while admitting to having to iron out a host of local
      variations, confirm that the school run increases peak hour motoring traffic
      by around 20%. Thereafter the picture clouds. Among the school run drivers
      “contributing” to congestion, only just over ½ are specifically travelling
      to and from school. For the rest their journey is part of a longer car
      journey that was going to be made anyway. Another thing – it's not just
      those “mums”. The school run is done by a lot more men than might be
      expected, and the majority of them – men and women – would prefer not to do
      it. They are motivated by anxiety about the risks to their children from
      traffic, bullying on the way to school and strangers. If they could, they
      would have found a school closer to home, but parental choice has led to
      larger catchments and longer journeys not covered by public transport.

      The newest insight from this research - emphasised by the AA in a press
      release on June 15 - adds to the intractability of the problem. While their
      findings confirm the reality of widely perceived lessening of motorised
      traffic volume outside school terms, Jones and Bradshaw found that most of
      the reduction comes as a result of drivers who are parents – whether
      involved in doing the school run or not – spending more time at home during
      the school holidays. So while there is room for reducing the congestion,
      pollution and hazard caused by cars in the vicinity of schools, there is
      less room for reducing congestion by cutting out the school run. The widely
      recognised variations in traffic volumes are as much affected by the
      behaviour of all parents as they are by those who do the school run.

      In addition there is that other portion of the 20% of motorists who, whether
      they passed by the school or not, would still be out on the roads going to
      and from work. A final problem is that if you did reduce peak traffic volume
      its benefits would be uncertain because the slightly clearer roads would
      attract people who would not normally drive at those times. This confirms
      the understanding that motor-born road traffic resembles gas which fills up
      all the available space rather than water which will circulate better in
      larger straighter pipes.

      We live in congested times surrounded by proposals that target particular
      groups of motorists in order to make life easier for the rest. This
      research – regardless of the AA Foundation for Road Safety recommending
      among other things the replacement of the car-born school run with buses –
      confirms the view that only marginal improvement to the current traffic
      congestion crisis can be achieved by targeting the school run. It could of
      course make life a lot better in the immediate vicinity of schools and even
      delay socialising another generation into auto-dependence. But as the
      researchers show attitudes are crucial here and some kids in some places are
      willing collaborators in the grid-lock around their school gates. Others
      however are saying that they would far prefer to cycle or walk to school if
      their parents and the school would allow it.

      0121 554 9794
      07775 655842
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