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  • Writer's pictureSolve The School Run

Nearly a quarter of a million extra car trips during London's school run.


Parent and children walking to school

Nicola Pastore, a parent in South London doing the school run. Credit: Solve the School Run


PRESS RELEASE


A quarter of pupils in London (25%) are driven to primary school every weekday in the capital, causing a major spike in congestion and air pollution during term time. This equates to an extra 240,000 car trips on the roads during each of the morning and afternoon rush hours.


The figures have been modelled by parent campaigners ‘Solve the School Run’ , a new organisation calling for more cargo-bike friendly measures to be introduced as well as a fleet of US-style school buses to be introduced to tackle the issue.


240,000 pupils in London are estimated to travel more than a mile to their primary school, and for this group the driving rate increases to nearly two thirds (65%).


Nicola Pastore, a parent who lives in Lambeth and co-founded Solve the School Run says, “Every morning and afternoon I run the gauntlet of double-parked cars, congestion on crossings, idling and road rage, to walk my three young children to school. It’s the most dangerous part of our day. With so many families travelling more than a mile to school, they need more help to get to school in a way that is healthy, less stressful and doesn’t damage our local environment. That could include electric cargo bikes or staffed walking buses and cycle groups. Imagine if our big cities had yellow buses, like in the US, which remove the need for every parent to go on the journey every day. We need change.”


Inner vs Outer London

Surprisingly, the issue is just as bad in inner London than outer London, with a very similar proportion of children being driven to primary school (25%) in inner London boroughs, compared to 24% in outer London boroughs. The model estimates the distances that pupils are travelling to primary schools in Inner and Outer London, is almost the same, despite large differences in housing density.


Kensington and Chelsea has one of the highest modelled rates of primary-aged pupils being driven to school in London, with more than a third of pupils (36%) being taken in a car to drop off and pick up. This is largely because pupils in the borough tend to travel longer distances to school and attend ‘non-catchment’ primary schools which can select from pupils beyond their local area.


By comparison, half the proportion of primary pupils in Waltham Forest (18%) are driven to school, reflecting the fact that more than eight in ten pupils (82%) go to a school which is less than a mile to travel to from where they live.


Camden also has one of the highest modelled driving rates with 29% of primary pupils being driven to school. This is primarily because Camden has a high proportion of ‘non-catchment’ primary schools where pupils are selected from beyond their local area and have longer and more time-consuming school run journeys.  


Alessandra Giuliani, a parent from Hampstead, said: "I am a mother of three and have been doing the school run in Hampstead for over 10 years. During the school run our areas is packed with cars, stuck in traffic and parked in dangerous places to drop off and pick up children. The number of near misses I have seen is staggering. And my children regularly comment on how bad the air smells. 


This database is so interesting because it suggests that a significant number of primary kids in Hampstead wards are travelling over a mile to school. So if we can encourage travel choices like cargo bikes that carry kids and improve the frequency of public buses, those could become quick and sustainable alternatives to driving."



Children walking to school

Children in North London walk to school. Credit Alessandra Giuliani


Increase in driving to school

According to official Department of Transport figures, the number of children (aged 5-16) being driven to school in London has increased in the last five years, despite Government targets to increase active travel.


In 2017, 19% of pupils were taken by car or van to primary school, which had increased to 24% by 2022, the most recent year in which official figures were recorded.


Child riding a bike down a street

A school street in Southwark making the school run safer and cleaner. Credit: Bessemer Grange PTA


Yellow Buses for London?

The parents are calling for more publicly funded support for the school run. This could be in the form of funded & staffed walking groups or cycling groups, or funded school buses - more commonly used in countries such as the US, Germany, Spain and Norway.


In England, children only get funding for school transport if they are under 8 and the school is more than 2 miles away, or if they are 8 or over and the school is more than 3 miles away.


However, in the US yellow school buses are available for anyone that lives more than 1 mile from their school. In some major cities such as New York, support is available if you live just half a mile away from school.


In the USA, over half of children go to school on a school bus, compared with just 6 percent of pupils in the UK. In the US free bussing is, with a few exceptions, available to all pupils who live over one mile from school.

Other potential options that the government should consider supporting include:


  • Official ‘Walking buses’ or ‘Bike buses’ with staffed marshals walking or cycling pupils from “stops” to school, taking responsibility for the pupils & registering their safe arrival at school, akin to a school bus service. 

  • Subsidised electric cargo bikes so parents can take their children longer distances and beat the traffic


According to a report from the Sutton Trust, the school run leads directly to as many as 40 deaths and 900 serious injuries a year, and contributes over two million extra tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide annually to the atmosphere.


ENDS


Notes to Editors


  1. Data Dashboard created by Solve the School Run - www.solvetheschoolrun.org  Profile - solvetheschoolrun | Tableau Public

  2. "The average number of car driver escort trips per child car trip to school was estimated from the English NTS as 1.2. Note that this value is greater than 1 because many parents drive their child to school and then make the return trip home, but is less than 2 because some parents drive two or more children to school in the same trip and/or drive to the school and then make a trip for a different purpose." Source Propensity to Cycle Tool schools’ layer 

  3. Official DfT Figures for school journeys for 5–16-year-olds from 2017 - 2022:


Year

Region of residence

Walk (%)

Pedal cycle (%)

Car or van (%)

Private bus [note 4] (%)

Local bus (%)

2016 to 2017

London

50

2

19

3

21

2017 to 2018

London

52

[low]

21

2

19

2018 to 2019

London

53

1

20

2

19

2020

London

66

5

19

3

7

2021

London

61

[low]

14

2

22

2022

London

51

0

24

1

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: DfT National Travel Survey 2022 (published December 2023).

 

  1. YB-P4 (policyexchange.org.uk) - ‘No More School Run’ Proposal for a national yellow bus scheme in the UK - The Sutton Trust (2005)

 

Solve the School Run – Data Dashboard Methodology

 

According to our National Travel Survey [NTS] analysis, the average driving rate for a London primary pupil travelling under 1 mile to school is 7%, that driving rate increases to 65% for distances 1-2 miles. The distance pupils have to travel to school is a huge determinant of how they travel. So, we've created a primary school travel model using pupil travel distances and NTS average London driving rates. The pupil travel distances were calculated using publicly available pupil catchment information & scaling this to on-the-road pupil travel distances using conversions calculated using data from the Propensity to Cycle tool.  Independent pupil travel distances were estimated, since these are not available publicly. Our data advisor on the project was Anna Goodman, data lead at the DfT recommended Propensity to Cycle tool.

 

The dashboard enables you to explore our model, to better understand school run traffic for primary schools, and work out which school trips are most likely to be made sustainably and which are likely to be driven.  You can take a look from a city-wide view, or break it down to Inner or Outer London, borough, ward, school type and even school. Knowing which kind of trips will likely generate the most driving, and the areas and school types where those trips are most prevalent, helps us understand which sustainable school run solutions - walking, scooting, cycling, cargo bikes, public transport or school bus - are needed. Full methodology here

 

About Solve the School Run: We are a group of parents and residents, with children at state and private, primary and secondary schools. We are passionate about reducing traffic around schools and want to create more convenient and sustainable choices for families. We worry about the road danger our children face on their way to and from school and that they are being exposed to health-damaging levels of air pollution. https://www.solvetheschoolrun.org/about

 


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