A red light for the school run

31st July 1998 at 01:00
The roads are quieter these days. That does not mean that the Government's transport strategy has yielded surprisingly swift results. It is only because the school holidays remove an amazingly high volume of cars from the roads, plus the fact that children on holiday mean fathers and mothers taking time off work. At peak times one in five cars is on a school run.

Paradoxically, it is overcrowded roads which have led to more children being taken to school by car instead of going on foot or bicycle. Shakespeare's depiction of one of the ages of man, the "whining schoolboy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school", is sadly out of date. He may still get to school at snail's pace, but that is because the family car is caught in traffic jams. Dangerous roads become more dangerous with school runs intended by parents to reduce the dangers. And the parents' charter means longer journeys as neighbourhood schools are bypassed.

Continental Europe manages school transport better. More children exercise their limbs: 60 per cent of Danish children go by bike but only 4 per cent in Britain. Glasgow is among the cities that want to encourage children to get on their bikes (page five). But a network of safe routes will take time to develop. Encouraging children to walk to school in supervised groups is another idea with resource implications. But better bus services, which are at the heart of the Government's transport strategy, hold out hopes for reducing car chaos outside schools.

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