Creating a Sustainable Travel Plan for Your School
An increasing number of Essex schools are seeing the benefits of embracing sustainable travel. By this we mean more pupils (and staff) are walking to school, or scooting, cycling, taking public transport or car sharing. Travelling to school in this way decreases the number of cars on the road, especially directly outside the school gates.
The Benefits of Sustainable Travel
Travelling on foot, bike or scooter also encourages more physical activity among children and their parents. A fully-grown adult does about 150 steps per every 100 metres, so even a short walk to and from school makes an excellent contribution to your 10,000 steps a day. When you consider that most children are shorter, and therefore take more steps, they get an even better deal!
It’s not uncommon for many families to live several miles from school and therefore rely on their car for the bulk of the journey. Luckily, these families can still experience the benefits of active travel through “Park and Stride”. This involves parking a little further from the gates (perhaps in a nearby car park) and walking the short distance to school.
Families that live near one another can also share lifts, thereby saving money in fuel costs (about £1 for every 5 miles). This amount might not seem striking at first; however, driving 2.5 miles each way twice a day will cost you about £2 every day in fuel, which adds up to £10 a week, or £390 a year! Hopefully that gives you a better idea of how much you can save just by jumping in a car with your neighbours.
You might not think it at first, but the air is in fact cleaner outside a car than it is inside a vehicle, as the air does not get a chance to refresh in such a small space. Outside the vehicle, however, pollution can go to infinity…and beyond.
How Can You Create a Sustainable Travel Plan?
So, how are all these great benefits achieved? Any school in Essex — regardless of size, location or age of pupils — can get support from the council to create their school travel plan. This project unique to the school and aims to encourage more families to adopt sustainable travel methods.
Acting on Your Sustainable Travel Plan
After surveying students and parents, many primary schools have found that scooting is popular among pupils, especially the younger ones. They have consequently installed scooter pods and used the free scooter training packs, which are provided by Essex County Council.
The vast majority of primary school children also take part in Bikeability (what us older folk used to call Cycling Proficiency), but did you know there’s a secondary school version as well? This enhances the skills learnt at primary level — such as riding on the road confidently and safely — and is available to any secondary school via the Safer Essex Roads Partnership. The organisation also coordinates special trips with Year 6 pupils, helping them to plan their ride to their new secondary school.
When it comes to travelling to secondary schools, Essex County Council’s Sustainable Travel Team has found that students tend to live further away. As part of some schools’ travel plans, therefore, we have managed to negotiate special train season tickets for students. This means students only have to pay for the duration of the academic year instead of twelve full months.
Individual Travel Plans for Each School
All of these initiatives are packaged up into an online document — the school travel plan — which evolves as circumstances change. If the school expands, for example, the travel plan adapts along with it.
There’s also a national accreditation system, similar to that for Healthy Schools, whereby schools can earn bronze, silver or gold plaques for their sustainable travel efforts.
Essex County Council and its various partners are here to help you along the way, and our advice and support is completely free. We’re sure that by working together we can help to make pupils healthier, greener and safer!
Written by Nick Hill, Sustainable Travel Planning Officer at Essex Highways (firstname.lastname@example.org).