On the map - Journeys to school - Bikes fall foul of safety fears

18th March 2011 at 00:00

Cycling may have become more popular among adults, but many parents deem it too dangerous as a means for their children to travel to school.

According to recent Department for Education figures, just 1 per cent of primary and 3 per cent of secondary pupils make use of the bike sheds, at least for their specified purpose. Walking remains the most popular method of reaching school, with 58 per cent of primary and 42 per cent of secondary pupils taking that route.

This probably demonstrates that, despite 30 years of enhanced parental choice, most pupils still attend their local school. When we add in the secondary pupils who take the bus frequently because of the distance to their secondary in rural areas and who effectively have no choice of school, the figure is probably higher.

Most disturbing to the environmental lobby, and perhaps a sign that parental choice has a link to family financial circumstances, is the 36 per cent of primary pupils who are conveyed to school by car, compared with only 19 per cent of secondary pupils. The historical two and three-mile limits for free travel still apply in many areas, although in London the mayor has provided free travel on buses and trams for all under-18s.

Cutting car journeys to primary schools frees up roads for other commuters, especially in the morning, and can be a healthy start to the day. But habits often started at nursery may be difficult to break, and balancing home, work and safety factors frequently dictates that the car is the best way to transport children to school. Ideas such as walking trains, where schools collect children on designated routes to school, can change travel habits.

One council in Scotland has recently proposed four longer school days each week, closing schools on Mondays, to save money. Such a move could also have a profound impact on roads around many primary schools.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education

Mode of travel to school in England*

* January 2010

Bus

Primary pupils 3%

Secondary pupils 31%

Car

Primary pupils 36%

Secondary pupils 19%

Cycle

Primary pupils 1%

Secondary pupils 3%

Train

Primary pupils 0%

Secondary pupils 2%

Walk

Primary pupils 58%

Secondary pupils 42%.

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