South Yorkshire’s Active Travel Commissioner Dame Sarah Storey is calling on parents and students to plan ahead for the school run to avoid potential traffic chaos at the school gates when the new term starts in September.
Britain’s top Paralympian, who is working with Mayor Dan Jarvis to enable more people to walk and cycle in South Yorkshire, is urging pupils to walk, cycle, scoot or use public transport when they return to classrooms to avoid dangerous congestion and pollution at the school gates.
The warning comes ahead of thousands of children in South Yorkshire returning to their classrooms after being home schooled during the coronavirus lockdown. With new measures being put in place by teachers to keep pupils safe in the classroom, Dame Sarah is urging parents to think before they travel by car to keep pupils safe on their journeys to and from school.
She said: “As a mum of a seven-year-old and two-year-old I know how busy school mornings can be, especially when we have to get used to staggered starts and new timings. Parents can create a stress-free journey to school by planning ahead.
“It’s vital that parents do not drive to the school gates. It will cause traffic congestion and put the safety of the children at risk when they arrive at school. There is already a significant amount of change for children to adjust to, so keeping them safe must be everyone’s highest priority.
“With schools introducing new measures to allow for social distancing, there won’t be enough space outside schools for vehicles to park. Just as we have seen in our towns and cities, we must expect to remove vehicles from outside of the school gates to allow for new measures to be put in place to keep everyone safe.
“It is recommended that pupils who live within 2km of school travel on foot and those within 5km of school ride their bike if there is a safe cycling route. A 20-minute stress-free walk or ride is likely to be quicker than driving, has more reliable journey times, and contributes to the physical and mental wellbeing of children.
“Modeshift Stars has created a fantastic tool for schools to use which highlights a 5-minute walking bubble around the school to encourage parents that do need to drive to park further from the gates and walk the last section of their journey. If your school hasn’t yet got one in place, the free resource is available on the Modeshift Stars website.
“I understand how frustrating it is if there is not a safe cycling route to school and Mayor Jarvis and I are committed to making South Yorkshire a place where the natural choice for short journeys is to walk or cycle. In June, we launched our Active Travel Implementation Plan which shows our vision to create more than 1000km of safe active travel routes in the region.”
Sarah’s calls are being backed by Mayor Dan Jarvis, the South Yorkshire Public Transport Executive, South Yorkshire’s local authorities, Modeshift Stars, and the Safer Roads Partnership.
Mayor Dan Jarvis said: “This year’s return to school will be like no other. South Yorkshire’s schools, our local authorities and the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) have been working incredibly hard to make sure the return to school runs as smoothly and safely as possible.
“Pupils and teachers will be following rules to keep everyone safe from coronavirus inside the classroom. And by choosing to walk, cycle or use public transport, parents can help keep children safe at the school gates as well.
“Many families enjoyed walking and cycling during the coronavirus lockdown and I urge parents to keep up the habit of being active by building it into their journey to school. Walking and cycling brings many mental and physical health benefits, is cheaper than driving, and reduces air pollution.
“For pupils who live further from their school, Government funding has allowed for extra school transport to be available, and a number of extra measures will be in place on board to keep pupils safe. Some public transport services used by school pupils will now become dedicated school services, and pupils will be encouraged to wear face coverings and to sit within the ‘bubbles’ they will be in when they are in school. Parents and children alike must do their bit and follow the guidelines on social distancing, hand washing, and face coverings.”
There are a number of resources available to teachers and parents to help plan school journeys. Teachers can build a 5-minute walking bubble using the free tool available on the Modeshift Stars website and Travel South Yorkshire has information on planning your journey to school by bus.
Find out more about Mayor Jarvis and Dame Sarah’s plans for South Yorkshire’s active travel network on the Cycle Walk SCR web page or by searching Cycle Walk SCR on Twitter and Facebook.